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GM Wolfgang Meusburger at Holiday Inn in Patong

Phuket Jobs Not At Risk, Says Patong Hotelier

Thursday, September 4, 2008
JOBS are likely to be safe within Phuket's tourism industry provided the political crisis is resolved peacefully and soon, says one of the island's leading hoteliers.

Providing a first-hand report on how resorts are being affected, Holiday Inn Phuket General Manager Wolfgang Meusburger told Phuketwan that the fall-off in bookings was likely to be short-term.

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Asked how business was going, Mr Meusburger replied: ''Booming as usual.''

More realistically, he said occupancy rates at the popular beachfront road resort in Patong were likely to slide from 80 percent to 60 percent in September, but that it was usually a low month.

Resorts that depend on conferences and meetings were hardest hit, he said, with everything for the next three weeks being cancelled, especially by people coming from Singapore, Japan and other Asian centres.

Individual travellers had surprised him by mostly continuing to come. Mr Meusburger said he thought it would be business as usual by October-November.

The unexpected siege at Phuket airport at the weekend left a gap in tourist arrivals that had people in spas and tour businesses sitting around today with nothing to do.

But Mr Meusburger said he thought that lay-offs were unlikely even in the ancillary parts of the industry.

''I do not think there will be lay-offs if the situation remains calm,'' he said.

''I firmly believe that Phuket is a resilient market and the situation will quickly return to normal if we are out of the news.

''In the past we have always been able to say when there in trouble in Thailand that Phuket is different.

''The closure of the airport set a new threshhold. It was a huge mistake.

''Talking to tuk-tuk drivers and other locals, they are not supporters of the government, but they also do not support the people who caused the airport closure, or want a repetition of it.''

When would-be guests call the Holiday Inn and ask whether the situation is safe, they are provided with a detailed summary of the latest events that puts everything in perspective.

The summary is updated every day.

''We provide candid feedback,'' Mr Meusburger said. ''The security and safety of our customers is of prime concern,'' he said.

Phuket was back to normal well before Thursday, although tourist destinations were noticeably emptier.

Local expats usually relish the chance to enjoy great beach weather when fewer tourists are around.

Resort managers will be hoping their enjoyment does not last for long.


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