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Phuket has no reason for alarm about swine flu, or much else

Phuket's Tourism 'Not Affected by Swine Flu'

Thursday, June 11, 2009
SWINE flu is not having an impact on tourist numbers visiting Phuket, nor is it expected to have any real effect, tourism industry leaders said today.

A total of 73 countries around the world now have reported outbreaks, with the World Health Organisation close to declaring a pandemic.

But numbers of cases in Thailand remain low and of local concern, especially by comparison with Australia, where more Phuket tourists come from than any other country.

While cases in Thailand are now rising and mostly so far in Bangkok and Pattaya, there are already 1224 cases in Australia, with twice that number reported in Canada.

''There would be no logic in avoiding travel to Thailand if swine flu is everywhere,'' said one tourism industry observer.

''It's an exaggeration to say tourism to Thailand is being affected. Elements of the media are not reporting the situation accurately.''

Methee Tanmanatragul, president of the Thai Hotels Association Southern chapter, agreed, saying: ''Swine flu is not having a very strong impact.

''Media around the world have been reporting cases in many countries,'' he told Phuketwan..

''If it is detected, it's curable and the spread and danger is not as bad as expected. People are cautious, but there is no panic.''

The World Health Organisation is concerned, however, that if a pandemic is declared, there may be more media exaggerations provoking a panic and a call for travel bans, which it sees as unnecessary.

The H1N1 virus is not as serious as it was initially feared to be, a fact being overlooked in the scare-mongering.

The Wall Street Journal, a relatively reliable newspaper, reports: ''Seasonal influenza kills 35,000 to 50,000 Americans each year. It is now evident that the current strain of the H1N1 swine-flu virus is a 'mild' version rather than a pathogenic killer like the 1918 Spanish flu.

'' In fact, seasonal flu kills 500,000 people annually world-wide, a staggering death toll that occurs with hardly any of the public losing a moment's sleep over it.''

Phuket and tourism should hardly be alarmed.

''Things are slow [in tourism]''; Khun Methee said. ''The negative perception of Thailand is the main reason why, much more than the economic downturn or the swine flu.

''Charters are still coming, scheduled flights are arriving as usual.''

A resort owner who preferred to remain anonymous told how, during the far more serious outbreak of SARS some years ago in Hong Kong, residents actually fled to Phuket and stayed on the island until the problem was contained.

Meanwhile, Australia remains a hotspot for H1N1 with an entire rugby team quarantined after a member tested positive.

In the past two days, another 173 cases have been reported, bringing the total there to 1224 cases. Canada has 2446 cases, an increase of 331.

Chile's figures are causing concern: out of a total of 1694 cases reported, 1283 have been within the past two days.

The Dominican Republic has almost doubled its tally in the same period, its new cases of 47 bringing the total to 91 and Panama has increased to 221 with a jump of 42 cases.

Japan has seen a jump of 75 cases to a total of 485.

In Mexico, where the virus was first detected, figures are startling in another way: no new cases have been reported in the past two days.

Nor has the US, which has by far the largest total number at more than 13,200 and 27 deaths.

There have been few fatalities compared to the number of cases.

As for tourism on Phuket, Khun Methee said: ''We don't expect the next high season to be as good as people are hoping.

''[To generate business] there is no significant benefit to go on a roadshow now when people feel insecure about Thailand's stability.''

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Comments have been disabled for this article.


With confirmed swine flu cases (Phuket Gazette) in the night clubs of Patong it will be interesting to see what action is taken. One boy sick in Bangkok, school closed. Now in Patong????

Editor: It's now in 74 countries. All along, WHO has said it will be about mitigation. One in five people are expected to get it. Not a big deal. Even the media will grow tired of exaggerating its importance eventually.

Posted by Curios on June 12, 2009 18:42

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