Friday, October 28, 2011

Exodus in full swing

The Nation October 28, 2011 7:01 am
Exodus in full swing

Flights packed and traffic jams reported on roads leaving Bangkok; Pattaya, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Kanchanaburi main destinations; 1,000 bus trips added to carry more passengers

The exodus of flood-weary Bangkokians from the city gathered pace yesterday, jamming outbound highways with cars and adding to packed accommodations in Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chon Buri, among other destinations.

For a few days now, Bangkokians have locked up their homes and migrated to resorts or relatives' homes upcountry, but after the government on Wednesday announced October 27, 28 and 31 to be public holidays in 21 flood-hit provinces, the intermittent streams yesterday became a flood of stressful holiday seekers.

Fuelling the rush out of Bangkok was the city administration's declaration of evacuation zones. Residents of Don Muang, Bang Phlat and Sai Mai districts have been told to leave their homes. Partial evacuation was also announced for Thawee Watthana district.

Traffic jams were reported on many roads leaving the capital. Towards the Northeast, motorists crowded High-way 304 from Bangkok, Chachoen-gsao and Prachin Buri to Nakhon Ratchasima, while heading south, the road to Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin and beyond saw heavy traffic.

Transport Co has added 1,000 more bus trips to serve people wishing to return to their home towns. President Wutthichat Kalayanamit said its terminal no longer had leftover travellers because the company had brought the total bus trips available to 4,000 per day and would support 200,000 travellers.

Many travellers could expect to reach destinations up to five hours late, he said, as roads were flooded.

Mor Chit 2 Terminal was busy with travellers seeking to get buses to their home towns. Renu Sukthat said she had been staying with a relative in Bangkok's Srinakarin Road area because her Phichit home was flooded. But now since Bangkok's water was rising, she had decided to go home.

Kanchana-buri is proving a popular destination for Bangkok people to spend their special holidays away from the flood water. Traf-fic jams were reported in the city from Wed-nesday evening, especially on Saeng Chuto Road.

Kanchana-buri's deputy governor called an urgent meeting to plan support for the visitors and prepare temples and schools to shelter thousands of evacuees for the next 30 days.

Another popular getaway destination was Chon Buri's Pat-taya city. Hotels in Bangkok and nearby destinations such as Pattaya and Hua Hin are gaining more business as Bangkokians escape the floods, fully booking hotels and other accommodation.

Eastern Thai Hotel Association president Buntharik Kusolwit urged people to check for hotels before visiting Pattaya on ptygrandsales or www.trip2pattaya. com, or call the city's hotline 1337.

Supawan Tanomkietipume, chairman of the marketing department of the Thai Hotels Association (THA) said many hotels and condominiums in Pattaya, Hua Hin and Cha-am were gaining higher occupancy rates as people escape the flooding in Bangkok and check in for short stays.

Airlines operating out of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport are reporting full bookings through to the end of this year - as passengers are unable to travel by car through flood areas or do not wish to take buses through time-consuming alternative routes.

Supawan said accommodation in Bangkok was also receiving more customers.

"Operators are gaining thousands of room-nights since the water flow reached the capital this week," she added.

She said the higher demand from local residents could make up for cancellations by foreign tourists, since many countries had issued high-level travel warnings about Bangkok.

According to the THA, many operators so far had not profited from the higher occupancy rate as they were offering lower prices to help those affected by the floods.

More than 30 THA members last week offered special rates to help Thai flood victims of Bt600, Bt900 and Bt1,200 per night until November 5. All these rooms were sold within days of the campaign launch.

The association is considering extending the campaign as the flood situation continues.

A group of hotels in Pattaya this week introduced special deals for flood-affected families in Bangkok.

Many house owners in Pattaya are offering long-stay deals for families, but rates might climb to Bt25,000 per month.

The Twin Towers Hotel in Bangkok said it received more than 100 room-nights from the local market, but gained a lower return as it dropped rates from more than Bt1,000 for tourists to Bt900 per night for locals.

Novotel Bangna in Bangkok is offering a similar promotion for flood victims from today to the end of November, at Bt1,400-Bt1,650 per night.

Onyx Hotels and Resorts has special rates at hotels in Bangkok and in the provinces to help flood victims.

The City Hotel Sriracha is also promoting a weekly and monthly stay rate for Thai citizens only.

X2 Kui Buri is offering Bt4,850-Bt6,500 rates for two people from today until November 23.

Le Buri in Pranburi is also offering rooms for families of six to eight persons at Bt11,900, to end on November 23.
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