By BAMRUNG AMNATCHAROENRIT
THE TOURISM outlook for Koh Samet will be on a full recovery path by the end of next year after tourists gain more confidence in the island, which was hit by the oil leak on Ao Phrao beach at the end of July.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, chairman of the Rayong Tourist Association, said yesterday that the island was expected to see 10 per cent more tourism revenue next year. However, this scenario would be based on the continuing arrival of the island’s regular foreign tourists from Scandinavia and Britain, and also new groups of Russians and Chinese.
More important, all parties will have to work together to restore tourists’ confidence. Especially key foreign travel agents and media outlets must be invited to the island to receive on-the-scene information to improve its image.
About 700,000 tourists visit Koh Samet annually and 80 of them are Thais. Tourism revenue was projected at Bt4 billion this year, a slight drop from last year.
In Rayong province, of which Samet is a part, tourism was hit harder. The eastern province’s tourism revenue was expected to drop to Bt20 billion this year from Bt22 billion last year when more than 5 million tourists visited the province.
Fortunately, the oil crisis hit during the low season, he said.
A subsidised campaign to lure tourists from other regions to visit the island launched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), PTT Global Chemical (which was responsible for the oil leak) and tourism associations has helped offset the missing tourists.
This month, the average occupancy rate is 50 per cent, against 70 per cent during normal periods.
Its prospects for the long holiday next month and the New Year celebration are projected to be positive, but still far from regular times when rooms are almost all full.
Tourists are not staying at Ao Phrao, the area that was hit by the oil leak. Instead, they go to other beaches, especially Ao Wongduan and Sai Kaew. The island has 2,000 rooms to welcome tourists.
But Santi Chudintra, executive director of the TAT’s eastern region, said the whole island was safe for tourists. Its scenery has been improved via a joint effort of all parties. It is ready to welcome tourists, and Ao Phrao was reopened officially on November 1.
From December 6-11, Rayong province will host a marine-travel festival to stimulate Hat Ban Phe and Koh Samet, with activities and seafood promotions. It is the 13th annual event and could revive the confidence of tourists.