“We are counting on our 25 offices abroad to give the right information about the flood situation in Thailand,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Suraphon Svetasreni to a packed gathering at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) about the impact of Thailand’s worst floods to date on the tourism industry of the country. He was accompanied by Akapol Sorasuchart, President of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), who spoke about the effects of the floods on the MICE industry.
“It’s important to clarify many things,” said the Governor, who just back from World Travel Market (WTM) in London, where he was accompanied by a 90-strong delegation from Thailand, all eager to portray the “right” picture of the flood situation in the country.
“The most important thing to clarify to all international tourists,” he said, “is that the Suvaranabhumi International Airport is open and will remain so. There’s no flooding on the highways, and there’s transport from the airport to the city, including taxis, buses, overhead Rail Link. It’s only the domestic Don Muang Airport that has been closed,” he stated.
Suvaranabhumi Airport, according to the Governor, had enough flood-protecting measures in place and continued to have 120 airlines operating out of it, with 800 flights a day.
A Tourist Assistance Centre had been set up on the 3rd floor of the Airport Rail Link’s Makkasan station, to facilitate tourists’ transport from the hotels to the airport, with the hotels making arrangements for transport to this station.
The TAT had also activated a Tourism Intelligence Unit and Crisis Management Centre to coordinate all information on the floods, and release daily situation updates on the web site www.thailandtourismupdate.com .
This information was being sent in seven languages through email blasts to nearly 5,000 recipients every day, including international tour operators, foreign government offices, industry associations, and travel- trade media around the world.
He stated that TAT was using various online and offline channels; social network media like Twitter ,Google, and Facebook; and popular travel web sites like Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet to give correct, updated information “ to quell many wrong rumors going around.”
“We are also using the ‘testimonial’ approach through YouTube, by uploading comments of tourists who are already here and enjoying their holiday,” he added.
“In addition, I‘ve encouraged our international offices to do one-to-one meetings with those who want more information, and am personally monitoring this,” he stated.
The Governor informed that the flood-hit spots in Bangkok were mostly the residential areas, which did not affect tourists. Except for the Grand Palace area, all the popular tourist areas like Siam, Sukhumvit, Silom, and Khao Sam Road were totally flood-free.
Again, although some parts Bangkok were flood-hit, all the places around it were un-affected, like Kanchanburi, the beaches of Pattaya, Huahin, Koh Samet, and Koh Chang, said the Governor.
And so were the popular southern beaches of Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, and also the northern towns of Chiangmai and Chiangrai.
The Governor informed that, until the floods, Suvaranabhumi Airport had boasted of a record 20 percent increase in daily arrivals in 2011.
In fact, international tourist arrivals to Thailand had increased by 27 percent, between January and September of this year, with an increase of 6.7 percent in October alone.
There was a sudden fall of 25 percent in the first few days of November.
However, Phuket International Airport had recorded a 28 percent increase in arrivals, last month, and this trend was continuing.
“If the problems of the floods are resolved by end-November, our international arrivals will drop by 220,000, with a revenue loss of $520 million (domestic and international tourists). And if they are resolved by end-December, our international arrivals will drop by 300,000 tourists, with revenue loss of $ 825 million (domestic and international),” he said.
However, thanks to the high tourist growth this year, the Governor hoped that their year-end figure, in spite of the floods, would be 19.1 million, against their targeted figure of 19.5 million.
In order to stimulate the tourism industry, the Governor informed the holding of various events in November, like the Asia Pacific Golf Summit in Pattaya, with well-known celebrities like Jimmy Connors; the summer-brochure launch of top European tour company TUI at Phang Nga; the Miss Belgium Finals at Chiangmai; and finally a fam-trip of 250 tour operators and travel media from the Asia Pacific region, and also from the US and European regions.
Meanwhile, TCEB President Akapol Sorasuchart stated that they had started a Crisis Centre, too, to monitor information about the floods and give a “Fact and Statement” update on a daily basis, especially with regard to transportation to MICE venues, hotel accommodation, airport transport, etc.
He stated that many meetings and trade shows had been postponed – not cancelled. These included 7 international trade shows.
The TCEB President stated that they planned to request from the government a compensation plan to help the recovery of flood-affected, MICE -related businesses, including a 300 percent tax deduction measure for travel to conferences and seminars.
He said he was looking forward to the biggest MICE event in Bangkok next year-the Rotary International Convention, with 30,000 visitors in May 2012. He informed that Thailand was also bidding for the World Expo next year.
“We hope things will return to normal by December,” stated Sorasuchart.
That was why TCEB had started special marketing promotions for a “Believe in Thailand” campaign.
“As soon as the floods go, I’m positive the tourists will come back to Thailand,” he declared.
Sorasuchart informed that TCEB had targeted a 15 percent increase for 2011, but would now have to settle for a growth between 5-10 percent.