Rayong tourism operators on edge
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Rayong tourism operators on edge

Black smoke billows after a tank of pyrolysis gasoline caught fire at Map Ta Phut Port in Rayong on Thursday morning. (Photo: Social Rayong Facebook)
Black smoke billows after a tank of pyrolysis gasoline caught fire at Map Ta Phut Port in Rayong on Thursday morning. (Photo: Social Rayong Facebook)

Some fruit farms in Rayong reported tour cancellations after a chemical tank exploded on Thursday, while tourism operators called for an integrated plan for developing tourism and the industrial sector.

On Thursday, a pyrolysis gasoline tank in the Map Ta Phut industrial area caught fire and exploded, killing one and injuring four people, as a level two emergency was declared with many locals evacuated.

Suwanna Doty, president of the Tourism Council of Rayong, said tourists are concerned about their safety when visiting Rayong.

Prior to the incident, operators expected robust tourism traffic this weekend thanks to the three-day government holiday, which is also the last weekend of the school break.

Many fruit farms that stock a lot of durian and other fruit planned to welcome tourists, but received cancellations as new bookings stalled.

Many of the farms affected are located in another district or 40-50 kilometres from the accident, she said.

"The tourism sector is very sensitive to this kind of incident," said Mrs Suwanna.

"Last month a chemical warehouse in Rayong exploded, so this is not a minor issue to have two drastic events occur within a few weeks."

She said the government and relevant authorities need to implement a long-term plan to develop the industrial sector by integrating it with the tourism sector in Rayong.

"The government may want to promote the industrial sector, but the development plan should prioritise safety for locals, tourists and natural resources," said Mrs Suwanna.

In addition to buffer zones separating industrial areas from tourism areas that local communities already proposed, the government should set up a war room and information centre to rapidly tackle emergency cases, she said.

More skilled firefighters and emergency rescue staff should be employed with appropriate salaries and benefits, said Mrs Suwanna.

The expat population is growing in the province, notably in the Ban Chang area, she said.

"If disasters start to occur frequently, foreigners will lose confidence and change their destinations," said Mrs Suwanna.

"Unlike the PM2.5 smog in the North, which requires cooperation from neighbouring countries to deal with, fires in the industrial sector are preventable by following stringent safety measures."

She said environmental problems also need to be fixed, such as polluted beaches with waste washing up from the sea.

Phisamai Supanuntaroek, president of the Rayong Hotels Association, said hotels would monitor the situation this weekend to see the actual number of cancellations.

When similar incidents occurred in the Map Ta Phut area, tourism sentiment was severely affected, she said.

Mrs Phisamai said major resorts and tourist attractions, such as beaches and parks, are located outside Mueang district.

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