PHUKET: Around 7,300 rooms at 19 local hotels booked by Chinese tourists have been cancelled, causing over seven million baht in losses, following the Phoenix tour boat tragedy which claimed 47 of their compatriots' lives early this month.
Kongkiat Khuphongsakorn, president of a southern hotel association, said yesterday the booking rate has fallen sharply by 80%-90% at Patong beach and by 50% across the province after the incident.
Besides Chinese visitors, hotel bookings have also been cancelled by foreigners from other countries, he said.
Mr Kongkiat said the Phoenix tour boat disaster would affect Chinese tourists for the next three months but would only have a short-term impact on visitors from other countries.
"The damage is more than seven million baht based on 7,300 rooms costing around 1,000 baht each. However, the accident doesn't only affect hotels but also other tourism sectors such as shuttle buses, tour boats and local shops. Chinese tourists often spend around 20,000 baht per person, per visit," he said.
Mr Kongkiat, however, said the government's efforts to overhaul safety measures across all forms of transport would play a pivotal role in regaining the confidence of foreign travellers.
The Phoenix dive boat capsized with 101 people on board -- 89 tourists, all but two from China, and 12 crew -- when returning to port after a trip on July 5.
Patong Hotel Association president Salisa Limsakul echoed these sentiments, saying the number of Chinese visitors to Patong Beach has dropped following the accident.
Southern provinces rely on Asian tourists, particularly the Chinese, during the low season, she said.
Phuket Tourism Council president Sarayut Mallam urged Thai agencies to step up efforts to reclaim confidence in the country's marine tourism and publicise the presence of stringent safety checks.
In terms of compensation, families of 36 of the 47 victims have contacted the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC) to obtain the compensation from Bangkok Insurance Pcl and Thaisri Insurance Pcl, according to the OIC.
So far 30.2 million baht has been paid out by both companies.
The OIC also informed relatives of the remaining 11 victims that they would meet on July 23-24 to follow up the issue.
Among those 11 was a Chinese tourist whose body remains pinned by the boat under water. Divers have been unable to retrieve the body due to sand around the wreck and strong currents. At press time authorities had still to recover it.
All 46 of the bodies so far recovered have been identified.
Chalermphong Sukhonthaphol, director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, said 56 of the boat's passengers were treated at the hospital, of which 17 were in-patients, while two others had been transferred to the Phuket Provincial Hospital.
An inspection, led by deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, was also carried out at Thanawat Engineering Phuket (Thailand) Boat Building and Si Kit Co Ltd, the boat manufacturing companies which assembled the Phoenix.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed officials to investigate the case thoroughly and suggested that the regulations set out by the government's Port In Port Out (Pipo) centre for fishing trawlers should now be applied to tour vessels.
Gen Prayut also ordered the Ministry of Sports and Tourism and China-based Thai agencies to step up efforts to publicise the country's measures to cope with the incident among Chinese nationals.