Published on September 18, 2007
Sunday's One-Two-Go air crash in Phuket will affect tourism to the resort island for only one or two months, Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani said yesterday.
Tourism should recover by end of the year, which is the peak season, he said.
"The incident will surely hit the tourism industry, but for a short time. I hope it will rebound before the coming high season," Suvit said.
Phuket, which last year welcomed over five million tourists, generates one-third of the country's tourism income.
Suvit urged authorities to conclude investigations into the mishap as soon as possible in order to restore confidence in air travel to Phuket and nearby attractions.
The minister went to the island with Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Phornsiri Manoharn yesterday to monitor the situation, and console relatives of the victims and offer assistance.
Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, also believes the impact will be only short-term.
"Tourists all over the world understand that it was an accident. So there should no doubt over the issue. But if this is a human error, the damage could be greater," said Apichart.
He urged the airline and state agencies to make full disclosure about the crash, which killed 89 people, mostly foreign tourists.
The tourism ministry has ordered all TAT offices overseas to provide correct information and assistance to victims' families and travel agents.
Charoen Wangananond, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said the overall number of air travellers could decrease because many people would put off their trips, especially to Phuket. However, he too believed that tourists would return to the island.
Imtiaz Muqbil, executive director of Bangkok-based Travel Impact Newswire, told online travel magazine eTurbonews that he did not think the accident would dent air travel to Phuket.
"Air disasters can happen to anyone, any time. This incident will not deter tourists from flying into the island," he said.
"This is purely bad luck, with the airplane running into severe weather and getting hit with a down draft. [One-Two-Go CEO] Udom [Tantiprasongchai] is one of those guys who have the least safety and security concerns due to the company's excellent history."
Muqbil believed that whatever the findings of the investigation into the crash, one air disaster would not affect tourism to Phuket, which has now recovered from the deadly tsunami that killed thousands of locals and tourists in December 2004.
Thailand's extensive air links, both domestic and regional, have ensured a plentiful if not always adequate supply of seats, Muqbil stressed.
"The country has gradually dismantled the reciprocity-based aviation policy to give more leeway to international carriers while also seeking more international access for national airline Thai Airways International. Charters were also given liberal permission to fly in during the high-density winter seasons, especially on routes not flown by the scheduled airlines," he said.