|By Nondhanada Intarakomalyasut, Bangkok Post, Thailand|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 4, 2004 - The government has failed to offer any assistance for private hoteliers suffering from the unrest in the South, according to Abdulaji Awaesuemae, the president of the Tourism Business Association in Narathiwat.
The violence in the three southernmost provinces, with more than 500 deaths since the beginning of the year, has taken a heavy toll on businesses in the region.
Hotel occupancy in the border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has dropped sharply since the violence began to escalate early this year. One hotel, the four-star Royal Princess Narathiwat, has since announced it would close permanently on Jan 1 due to poor business.
Mr Abdulaji said government assistance to businesses affected by the southern unrest had been poor.
"While the government rushed to financially support the operators who were damaged by the outbreaks of Sars and bird flu, it seems to have neglected hotel operators in the three southernmost provinces," he said.
"This is very heartbreaking. I think we were forgotten because we live far away."
Mr Abdulaji said there were 2,600 rooms in 43 hotels in the normally busy border town of Sungai Kolok, where occupancy rates had continued to drop significantly since the beginning of the year.
Some hotels were on the verge of bankruptcy while other owners were planning to sell or shut down their businesses, he said.
"From 2,000 visitors per day, traffic now is just around 300. Of this, half are Thais," Mr Abdulaji said.
Local hotels are slashing room rates to attract tourists, but to little avail. The City Hotel in Sungai Kolok, for instance, has cut its room rate from 600 baht to 100 baht per night but is still struggling to attract customers.
The latest casualty was the Royal Princess Narathiwat, the most luxurious property in the province, which is closing because the owner could no longer shoulder the cost burden.
Kittikorn Ternburin, the hotel's general manager, said the number of Malaysian tourists, its main customer base, had fallen sharply since the beginning of the year.
Lalana Santos, director of public relations and communications for Dusit Hotels and Resorts Plc, confirmed that the hotel would be closed at the beginning of 2005. The Dusit Group currently manages the 117-room property.
Siam Commercial Bank took over the hotel from the previous owner and decided to close the business due to insufficient revenue, she said.
Ms Lalana said the closure of the hotel would not have a significant impact on the performance of the Dusit Group, whose flagship is the Dusit Thani in Bangkok.
Shares of Dusit Thani closed unchanged at 41.75 baht yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
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