Tourism Authority of Thailand issues update on oil spill on Ko Samet

Approximately 50,000 litres of crude oil leaked from PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC)’s pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand around 20 km off the coast of Rayong on 27 July, 2013.

Tourism Authority of Thailand issues update on oil spill on Ko Samet

Approximately 50,000 litres of crude oil leaked from PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC)’s pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand around 20 km off the coast of Rayong on 27 July, 2013. The waves of the crude oil had reached Ko Samet, and washed up on Ao Phrao beach on the western coast of the island, on 29 July, 2013.

PTTGC released their 7th ‘situation update’ report on 30 July estimating that 70 percent of the oil spill has been removed through the cooperation from various organisations; such as, the Royal Thai Navy, Marine Department, IRPC Plc., and Oil Spill Response Ltd.

Some tourists have started to check out of their rooms on the affected western coast of Ko Samet, however, most tourists have just changed to the eastern side of the island which is clear from the oil spill and remains unspoilt.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni said, “The TAT had been monitoring the situation closely and working with the private and public sectors in order to prepare prompt assistance if needed.”

Mr. Chuchart Oncharoen, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Rayong Office said, “So far the island has only been slightly affected by the spill as the oil slick has reached only Ao Phrao and the other 14 bays of Samet Island remain intact. Very few bookings have been cancelled so far in the affected area.” Mr. Chuchart added about 70 percent of the oil slick in Ao Phrao has been removed. The spoiled area would be cleaned up in 3-7 days.

Ms. Joanna Cooke, PR Manager for TAT London office commented “We are impressed by the prompt action taken by assisting organisations who have made remarkable progress to clean up the spill. As long as weather conditions do not change drastically we hope that the beach will be cleaned up quickly (within a week) and tourism can resume as normal to that particular beach (Ao Phrao). We have not received any calls or emails from concerned tourists in the area but understand that head office is assisting locally on the ground. We have sent a situation update to our tour operator partners to minimise impact on sales to Thailand, luckily the oil spill has affected just one beach area on the whole island.”

Q&As:

1. What is the expected impact of the oil spill on tourists in Thailand?

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· The oil spill area is only found on the western side of the island, Phrao Bay (Ao Phrao), whereas the other parts of the island are still ready to welcome tourists.

· The majority of tourists in Ko Samet are still spending their holiday as per normal on the eastern side of the island, which has had no effect from the current situation.

· Some of the tourists in Ao Phrao area agreed to move to the east part of the island that is safe from the oil spill, while very few of them decided to change their destinations to other parts of Thailand.

2. What is the expected impact of the oil spill on the tourism industry in Ko Samet and Rayong Province?

· Fortunately, it is the low season of the island; however, it is too early to provide any estimates regarding changes in visitor numbers.

· TAT is, now, working closely with operators in the area in order to prepare prompt assistance in any needed cases.

3. Ko Samet is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Thailand for beautiful beaches and scenery. Do you think that after the oil has been eradicated the environment including the beaches and sea will return to be the same as before?

· TAT believes that every related agency in the private and public sectors will make a top priority to get rid of the oil from the seawater and sand.

· Right now, the related agencies are doing everything possible to remove the oil and to clean the affected area. Fast progress has been made already.

4. How long will it take to resolve the situation?

· TAT is closely monitoring the situation; however, the recovery will depend on various factors; such as, the currents of the sea and wind as well as rainstorms.

· Mr. Chuchart Oncharoen, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Rayong Office, said about 70 percent of the oil slick in Ao Phrao has been removed. The damaged area would be cleaned up in 3-7 days.

5. So far, what is the TAT’s response to the situation?

· TAT is closely monitoring and working with operators in the area in order to prepare prompt assistance to tourists and tour operators. We are also working with tour operators in our market to provide situation updates.

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