October 30, 2017.
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was a disaster that shook the world. Thailand was severely impacted with mainland beaches and several islands, especially Phuket, bearing the brunt of the fallout. When the tsunami struck Phuket, all the major beaches such as Patong, Karon, Kata and Kamala were affected. While it had a significant immediate impact on Thailand’s southern islands, relief efforts were prompt in the aftermath of the tsunami. Thirteen years later, we take a look at how Phuket has recovered from then.
The tsunami had a considerable impact on Thailand’s economy. The Thai government provided relief efforts to help the high-end resorts in Phuket recover their damage since tourism is one of the country’s largest industries. In the years that followed the tsunami, Phuket’s economy took a severe hit as efforts were made to repair the infrastructure of the island. Locals who were employed in the tourism and hospitality industry were the most affected, with thousands losing their jobs. However, from then until the present day, Phuket has been restored as Thailand’s most visited tropical resort and tourism there is booming as ever.
One of the most notable aspects of the tsunami was the efforts of the Thai people in banding together to provide aid to tourists affected by the tsunami in Phuket. The disaster hit tourist-dense areas like Patong hard, with much of the resorts, homes and entertainment structures affected. In the years that followed, European governments provided funding for Phuket to rebuild the Patong area, which has resulted in a more aesthetically pleasing district.
Thailand was largely unprepared for the 2004 tsunami, with little in the way of warning systems which would enable residents of affected areas to evacuate and prepare for such an event. Since the disaster, Thailand has been one of the pioneering countries in Asia to implement information-sharing systems on impending tsunamis. From Patong to the Similan Islands, all tropical resort areas are now fully equipped with warning and emergency systems – these were established almost immediately after the 2004 tsunami struck.
Phuket tourism insiders consider the island’s recovery from the disaster to be one of the promptest of its kind. According to statistics, Phuket largely recovered its infrastructure and tourism appeal within three years of the disaster. The number of tourists visiting Phuket dwindled from 2004 to 2006, with many travelers understandably apprehensive. Of the neighboring islands, Khao Lak was affected the most, with a death toll that rose to 4,000. The tiny island took about five years to recover, owing to it’s propensity for low-lying structures. On the other hand, Koh Phi Phi went on to experience its best ever “high season” just two years after the tsunami.
Patong Beach was where the most remarkable recovery occurred. Just three days after the tsunami, Bangla Road was up and running. It is indicative of Thailand’s remarkable relief efforts that many victims of the tsunami have actually returned to Phuket – tsunami awareness became a widespread priority, with many hotels and resorts now implementing prompt emergency protocols.