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GULF OF THAILAND OIL SPILL: Samet to take a hit

Publication Date : 31-07-2013

 

The tourism industry in Koh Samet looks set to miss this year's revenue target of 20 billion baht (US$639 million) because of the contamination and bad publicity from last weekend's oil spill, and the tourism minister and operators on the island are calling for PTT Global Chemical to compensate the hotels affected.

Meanwhile, commercial banks will provide assistance to hotel operators affected by the spill, and some banks see this as an opportunity to offer working capital to such businesses.

Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said yesterday that the Cabinet had agreed that PTTGC should compensate those hotels that have lost business due to guest cancellations.

He also assigned the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to examine the situation and estimate the cost.

Rayong Tourist Association chairman Chairat Trirattanajarasporn said that so far 15-20 per cent of advanced bookings had been cancelled by tourists from South Korea and Europe.

A preliminary estimate of the damage to the tourism sector is between 100 million baht and 200 million baht, but if the problem is not fully contained, that figure could reach 1 billion baht, Chairat said.

Last year, the island saw tourism revenue of 16 billion baht, and that had been expected to reach 20 billion baht this year. However, he is not confident that target can be reached now.

He called for PTTGC to tell operators when it can contain the oil leak and finish cleaning it up. The company as well should deliver a message with clear details to the public to restore tourists' confidence in the island.

Call to cooperate

He also called for all parties to integrate their efforts to restore the damaged environment.

Annually, more than 5.5 million tourists visit Samet.

"We really want to inform tourists that only Phrao Beach on the island was affected by the crude-oil spill, and on the rest of the island, they can still swim in the sea," Chairat said.

A taxi driver told The Nation many tourists were still staying on the island and were not frightened off by the event. Most of them are Chinese, followed by Westerners.

However, a business operator said the majority of tourists, mostly from Europe and China, had cancelled bookings for Koh Samet after the oil spill. Pisanu Kemaphan, president of the Rayong accommodation club, said tourists were not confident in the clean-up operations for the oil spill, which has been reported worldwide.

"This will cause long-term damage," he said, urging all relevant government agencies, particularly the TAT, and the media to present positive views of Samet. He noted that 95 per cent of tourist attractions on the island had remained safe from the spill, which had hit only a tiny part of the western shore.

According to Jiratchayuth Amyongka, head of SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) banking at Thanachart Bank, the oil spill has seriously hit tourism on Koh Samet even though some beaches were not damaged. The hotel business might take months to recover because advance bookings have been cancelled.

He noted that this was low season and operators spent this period renovating and expanding in preparation for the high season in October.

The damage might mean some hotel operators require more working capital, which might be a chance for TBank to offer credit lines to refinance customers.

In general, banks will consider the ability of customers affected by unexpected incidents to repay debt, and will offer basic assistance such as grace periods and credit lines to help them, he explained.

 

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