Asian tourism officials are entreating tourists to return to Phuket and other regions hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
"The majority of tourism infrastructure in Phuket remains intact, with only 10 percent of total rooms inventory impacted," said the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in a news release. "Many places are operating normally." PATA has posted informational maps, videos and fact sheets for tourists on its Web site, www.pata.org.
In a statement on its Web site, the Phuket Tourist Association (www.phukettourist.com) said, "It is important to see that we do not suffer from a second wave -- this one an economic crisis caused by fleeing tourists. . . .
"It is, of course, very kind of people to provide donations to various organizations. Instead of dropping money in a donation box and staying home, however, it would be more helpful now to bring that money yourself and spend it here as a normal tourist."
The World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations, will hold a special emergency session on Phuket beginning tomorrow to demonstrate support and solidarity. "It is heartening to note that a large number of tourists have insisted on staying on in Phuket to continue with their holidays, thus contributing to the early recovery of tourism on the island," said a WTO statement.
Many hotels have remained open in Phuket, although the harder-hit areas of Khao Lak and Phi Phi Island "could take a year or more to recover," according to PATA. Sawadee.com, a Thai hotel reservation system, said last week that 117 hotels in Phuket remain open for business; 24 are closed, but have a reopen date; and 15 are closed for the long term or cannot be contacted. About 35 hotels are now offering promotional rates to attract tourism; book online at www.phuket.sawadee.com/hotels/index.html.
Airlines and tour operators are also rushing to offer deals to Phuket and other resort areas of Thailand. Among the best:
Cathay Pacific (www.cathay-usa.com) is offering a sale fare to Bangkok of $671 round trip from New York, including taxes. Purchase by tomorrow and travel Feb. 15-April 15.
Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) has created an air pass good between three cities within Thailand for $179 plus taxes. For example, fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Phuket back to Bangkok for $210 including taxes.
Nok Air (www.nokair.com), a discount domestic airline, has round-trip fares of $65 between Bangkok and Phuket. Similar fares are being offered by competitor Orient Thai (www.orient-thai.com).
The Tourism Authority of Thailand's "Love You Andaman" promotion, launched last week to jump-start tourism to Phuket and nearby regions, offers six packages to Phuket and Krabi starting at $143 per person double, including round-trip flights from Bangkok to Phuket, two nights' lodging, all meals for three days and sightseeing tours. Info: www.tourbyyou.com.
Gate 1 Travel has a 13-night "Affordable Thailand With Phuket" tour departing Feb. 13 starting at $1,529 per person double, plus about $186 taxes, that includes round-trip air from Los Angeles, flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket to Bangkok, accommodations, breakfasts, sightseeing by motorcoach and English-speaking guide. Info: 800-682-3333, www.gate1.com.
Friendly Planet (800-555-5765, www.friendlyplanet.com) has a 15-night "Amazing Thailand Plus Phuket Island" tour with availability for several departures in March and April starting at $1,299 per person double, plus $140 taxes, that includes airfare from Los Angeles, internal flights, accommodations, some meals and several sightseeing tours.