Even with Phuket the preferred destination for British tourists coming to Thailand, the closure of Thomas Cook will not affect overall tourism in the province, especially over the upcoming high season, TAT Phuket office director Kanokkittika Kritwuttikorn told the Bangkok Post yesterday (Sept 24).
Most of those affected are luxury British tourists who can use other companies’ services, she said. (See Bangkok Post report here.)
In Phuket, the major tourist source markets are China, Russia and Australia, she added.
Mrs Kanokkittika said the partial closure of a runway at Phuket airport for maintenance from midnight to 9am has caused flight delays, a bigger issue for the province.
From January to August, the number of international arrivals in Phuket stood at 6.9 million, down 0.6% from last year.
The news flies against the move by Thailand to cut its arrivals target from Britain from an estimated 1 million this year.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the TAT will also assess the possible impact that might occur in Scandinavia, where tourists also use the services of the British travel firm.
Last year 954,404 travellers from Britain visited Thailand, and some 600,000 from Scandinavian countries.
Mr Yuthasak said the TAT is set to discuss the impact from the closure today (Sept 25) with operators before releasing a new projection.
The talk will include agencies such as Asian Trails, the main destination management company for Thomas Cook, and hoteliers at popular beach locations such as Phuket, Phang Nga and Koh Samui, namely Dusit Thani, Anantara and Mandara.
“Most tourists who used Thomas Cook already received round-trip tickets. The biggest problem will be in the hotel sector, especially for travellers who use Thomas Cook’s vouchers,” he said.
Mr Yuthasak said Tourism and Sports Minister Phitphat Ratchakitprakarn ordered TAT to provide assistance to British tourists if needed.
Vichit Prakobgosol, President of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said the closure of Thomas Cook will slightly affect Thai tourism because it occurred in the low season.
He said the fall of the firm, caused by the failure of a Brexit deal and a depreciating currency, is a wake-up call for tour operators about the impact of digital disruption as intense price wars from online travel agencies take a bite.