Thai tourism counts costs of the brutal murder of Phuket
The murder of a tourist visiting Phuket as part of the ‘sandbox’ program is both a personal tragedy and a national disaster for Thailand’s efforts to reopen the tourism industry on which it relies heavily.
Police quickly arrested a suspect in the case, who confessed to murdering the 57-year-old Swiss woman in a botched robbery.
While the swift arrest of a suspect has helped bolster Thailand’s tourist reputation, Phuket is now tightening security measures to prevent the tragedy from happening again.
Reconstruction photos of the murder of Nicole Sauvain Weisskopf
Before the Covid-19 crisis, tourism accounted for about 20 per cent of Thailand’s GDP.
However, Phuket restaurants and shopkeepers fear the killing will hurt the local economy as fewer tourists now venture out of their hotels. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew said he will hold talks with relevant authorities to tighten security for foreign visitors.
“We will accelerate our investigation, identify high-risk areas in each community and ask people in communities to help check tourists for safety,” he said.
Despite this setback, the TAT Sandbox program on Phuket continues. Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said his agency was stunned by the incident and is closely monitoring and evaluating its impact on tourism.
He added that hotel bookings in Phuket were ceasing. Hotels registered 7,027 room nights reserved on August 5, 6,940 on August 6 and more than 6,000 on August 7.
“TAT also collects data from our offices around the world on tourist confidence and the emotional impact of the murder,” Yuthasak added. “We will formulate a plan to mitigate the impact and continue to promote the sandbox scheme.”
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