Three days of power failures on the resort islands of Samui and Pha-ngan have caused damages worth Bt1.2 billion, the central bank announced yesterday.
Preuttipong Srimalachan, director of the Bank of Thailand’s branch for the South, made the announcement after the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) managed to restore power to the two islands early yesterday.
Preuttipong said the calculation was based on the estimate that about 75,000 tourists visited Samui every month and each spent about Bt3,200 per day. He said the blackouts directly affected the spending of tourists, who ended up cutting short their visits, and this might even have a long-term effect on the industry if foreigners lose confidence.
He said the blackouts also affected other sectors in terms of money being circulated in the economy of the two islands, though the banks did not stop doing business during the three days.
“Since Samui is a top tourist destination, the problem with its infrastructure will affect tourists and investors’ confidence,” the BOT official said.
The PEA said it had mobilised 300 technicians to repair the damaged cables under the advice of three foreign engineers and had managed to restore power to both islands at 4.28am yesterday.
Suthat Lertmanorat, the chairman of Surat Thani Chamber of Commerce, said his agency was gathering information to send to the government to seek help in improving the islands’ infrastructure to prevent such problems in the future.
He also advised the government to pay special attention to these two islands, adding that the chamber would send its proposal via the Joint Committee of Government and Private Sectors.
He said about 70 per cent or 30,000 tourists had chosen to cut short or cancel their trips because of the power disruption, causing a shortfall of at least Bt120 million in income per day.
“Though the power has been restored, we are not certain the tourists will return. We have to wait for a while to study the situation,” Suthat said.
Thanongsak Somwong, president of the Samui Tourism Promotion Association, said the damage caused to the island was unprecedented because almost all businesses needed electricity.
Wannee Thaiphanit, the president of the Pha-ngan Tourism Promotion Association, said power disruption on her island had severely damaged tourism, adding that almost all foreign tourists decided to leave because they were not able to communicate with the outside world and could not carry out financial transactions.
She also called on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the government to pay special attention to Samui and Pha-ngan because these two destinations earned a lot of foreign exchange for the country.
Natwipha Eewsakul, a coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the power failure on the two islands proved that Thailand lacked an efficient system to manage power distribution because the management was centralised. She added that solar- and wind-power systems should be integrated to provide at least 90 megawatts to the two islands so damages from such disruptions can be minimised.
She said a study by the National Research Council of Thailand had found that the regular wind currents from Surat Thani to Songkhla had the potential to generate some 10,000MW of electricity.