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Phuket 5-Star Resort Closes as Island’s Tourism Leaders Grill Deputy PM Over Lack of Gov’t Support

U Zennaya Phuket Resort
U Zennaya Phuket Resort will cease operations on July 31.

U Zenmaya Phuket, a five-star resort in the island’s Kathu District, said Monday it will cease operations July 31, with local hospitality executives telling Thailand’s deputy prime minister it won’t be the last major business failure if the government doesn’t act quickly to revive tourism.

U Zenmaya announced the closure on its Facebook page, blaming the “current and ongoing impacts of Covid-19”. The 50-room, Chinese/Portuguese-style resort, part of the U Hotels chain operated by Absolute Hotel Services, advised customers who already prepaid bookings to contact reservations by email for refunds.  

The hotel already has been removed from U Hotels website and its Facebook page will be deleted July 31.

While Phuket hotels saw a strong resurgence of business this holiday weekend, the overall business environment since the end of Thailand’s coronavirus lockdown has been dire.

Meeting Monday with Phuket tourism leaders, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit got an earful from local business owners complaining about the lack of support by the central government, arguing that Phuket is different from, and worse off than, other areas.

Phuket Tourism Council President Sarayut Mallam said government officials, from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha down, either don’t realize or don’t care how bad things are in Phuket and called on them to actually visit the region to see how bad it is for themselves.

Sarayut said Bangkok has imposed uniform rules across the country without understanding how they play out locally. Phuket officials have asked for more autonomy to manage business controls but have been ignored, Sarayut said.

He added he has never seen things as bad as they are now in Patong and Karon.

Other business leaders joined in, saying Phuket has had to fend or itself since the start of the pandemic, giving food and supplies to the unemployed and even funding the island’s own Covid-19 field hospitals. Even now, they said, there is no financial support from the government, despite repeated requests.

Jurin, clearly on the defensive, told the group “don’t blame me. I’m I am here to solve your problem.”

The Commerce Minister turned to Phuket Gov. Narong Woonciew, looking for help. He got none. When asked how much the province has left to aid the tourism industry, Narong told him there was nothing left.

Resort owner and former MP Rewat Areerob corrected Narong, saying there is some money – the 1 percent of room rates the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization collects – but the PAO president died this year and the acting president has not released the funds.

Piling on, Thanusak Phungdet, president of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, said only 62 percent of 160,000 Phuket locals who applied for unemployment benefits were approved.

The chamber wants the government to extend loan-repayment terms and contributed 6 million baht to promote the upcoming Phuket Seafood & Gastronomy Festival, Phuket Surfing Contest 2020 at Kalim Beach and the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, all of which can bring tourists to town.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket office said it would contribute 300,000 baht to the events.

Jurin, perhaps making a lame attempt at humor, told the group “fundraising is not my job” but pledged to get the Finance Ministry to find the money.