Over 300 Phuket tour buses idled

Over 300 Phuket tour buses idled

Beijing's ban on Chinese outbound group tours hits resort island's operators hard

Tour buses are parked at a private lot in Phuket as operators say there are no Chinese visitors to ride in them. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)
Tour buses are parked at a private lot in Phuket as operators say there are no Chinese visitors to ride in them. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: More than 300 tour buses in Phuket have been parked for over a week with no Chinese tour group arrivals because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Many operators have been badly hit since the Chinese government banned all outbound group travel by its citizens on Jan 25 as it tried to contain the spread of the virus that originated in Wuhan.

“With no (Chinese) tour groups, we have no jobs and no money. Tour bus operators are under stress due to heavy financial burdens such as wages for bus staff, parking rental fees and household expenses,” said a tour bus operator who declined be named.

Since Jan 25, more than 300 tour buses, which mostly serve Chinese visitors, have been parked at a private lot covering 30 rai. The parking fees are 1,000 baht a month per bus, said a source at the Khon Su Cheewit 30 tour bus group.

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting Thailand due to its reliance on arrivals from China to boost the economy. (Bangkok Post video)

Reduced travel from China alone could result in 50 billion baht of lost tourism revenue for the country, the Tourism and Sports Ministry has estimated.

“The coronavirus situation has had more negative consequences for our tour bus group than the tour boat (Phoenix) disaster and the tsunami. If the government had measures to help us, our hardship might be eased,” said one Phuket bus operator.

The capsizing of the Phoenix boat in stormy seas off Phuket on July 5, 2018 killed 47 Chinese visitors. Arrivals from the country plunged in the following months and only began to recover at the end of the year.

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