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21 Dec 2005


Southern Floods: Blow to Hat Yai Tourism in Countdown to New Year


Torrential rains in the lower South have caused heavy flooding in numerous areas in eight provinces there, including Hat Yai, Songkhla. As dawn broke on December 18, 2005, water rundowns from Sadao District flowed into U Tapao Canal causing an overflow to breach its banks and flood into downtown Hat Yai. Still, the heavy flooding has not affected the property of businesses and the general public very much, or even inconvenienced tourists in Hat Yai to any great degree, because of the government's advance warnings.

The lessons learned from the flash flooding in Hat Yai in late 2000, and the fact that this natural disaster occurred on a Sunday when most travelers had already returned home, helped somewhat to contain the damage. Only department stores, shops and booths in the markets have closed temporarily for evacuation of merchandise to higher ground while employees cannot go to work as their homes and transportation routes have also been affected by the disaster.

However, the flooding in Hat Yai may be compounded by another atmospheric depression likely to reach Thailand in a few days. Thus, the heavy inundations in Songkhla, as well as in several areas of seven other provinces in the lower South ? that has cut off roads and railways from the southern border to Hat Yai ? plus rampant looting, are likely to deal a blow to tourism in Hat Yai over the remainder of this year. During the Loy Krathong festival, when the International Light Festival was celebrated, tourism was quite active there. This year, the public and private sectors are going to organize a "Night Paradise Hat Yai Countdown 2006" celebration on December 29-31, 2005, to celebrate the New Year.

Kasikorn Research Center (KResearch) preliminarily estimates that, in the second half of 2005, almost 100,000 tourists will have visited Hat Yai. Of this number, around 60,000 will have been Thais, plus 30,000 foreign tourists, who could generate income to tourism businesses in Hat Yai amounting to around THB600 million. Therefore, how much this flood incident will affect the tourism market and reduce the anticipated THB600 million in tourism income will depend on the following factors:
  • The severity of floods in Hat Yai.
  • The time required to relieve the flooding and return to normalcy.
  • Dissemination of the facts on the situation thoroughly and rapidly to tour companies, and to potential Thai and foreign tourists, to encourage them about the safety of coming to Hat Yai at the end of 2005