Sunday's air crash in Phuket, which killed 89 people and injured 41 others will affect tourism in the popular resort island, but just for short-term, Thai officials have predicted.
Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani was quoted by newspaper The Nation as saying on Monday, "The incident will surely hit the tourism industry, but for a short time. I hope it will rebound before the coming high season."
Phuket's tourism, which has just recovered from the disastrous tsunami in 2004, welcomed over 5 million tourists last year, generating one-third of the country's tourism income.
Suvit expected local tourism should recover by end of the year, which is the peak season.
The minister visited Phuket Monday with Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Phornsiri Manoharn to monitor the situation and console relatives of the victims and offer assistance. He urged authorities to conclude investigations into the mishap as soon as possible in order to restore confidence in air travel to Phuket and nearby attractions.
Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, also believed the impact will be only short-term.
"Tourists all over the world understand that it was an accident. So there should be no doubt over the issue. But if this is a human error, the damage could be greater," said Apichart.
Charoen Wangananond, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said the overall number of air travelers could decrease because many people would put off their trips, especially to Phuket. However, he too believed that tourists would return to the island.
Although confidence on local tourism remains high, budget airlines may suffer short-term loss as tourists might shun flying those flights out of safety concern after Sunday's tragedy that involved a One-Two-Go budget airliner, analysts said.
The number of passengers taking low-cost airlines in the region over the next few months may face a sharp drop, after Sunday's incident and a similar crash in Indonesia in January involving budget airline Adam Air.
The crash already pushed down the share price of Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, as analysts said travelers were likely to shun flying due to safety concerns.
AirAsia has a 49-percent stake in Thai AirAsia, one of three budget airlines operating in Thailand.
Sunday's crash is the first of its kind that hit budget airline industry in Thailand, which was introduced into the country just a few years ago.
At closing Monday, AirAsia fell 0.05 ringgit, or 2.6 percent, to 1.85 ringgit (53 U.S. cents) while the Kuala Lumpur composite index was down 0.9 percent.
MIMB Investment Bank head of research Pong Teng Siew said that in the short term passengers would be suspicious of budget airlines, although this was unlikely to last.
Srihaphan Chumsai, deputy CEO of Thailand's low-cost carrier Nok Air, believed that the impact is only for short term.
"People might stop traveling on low-cost carriers, but not for a long time," said Srihaphan.
He added that the One-Two-Go accident could have happened on any airline, not just a low-cost carrier.
Andrew J Wood, Asian Area director of development for the Skal International Council, an organization that brings together all sectors of the travel and tourism industry, said the incident was shocking but added that flying was still the safest mode of transport anywhere in the world.
Most travelers understood that the chances of the same type of accident happening again were minimal, he said.
"Our estimate is that business will be off 3 percent in arrival numbers as a result, but it should quickly recover as services normalize and the airport gets back on its feet," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2007)