Lee Gardens reopens in May
SONGKHLA, 10 April 2012: The Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel will reopen in May after repairs are completed.
The hotel was sealed off due to the risk in the structure collapse after a car bomb exploded in the basement parking lot, 31 March.
Hat Yai Municipality inspected the building late last week, and concluded the hotel was structurally safe, but it ordered further engineering tests on the B3 basement floor where the car bomb exploded.
Hotel officials suggested they could reopen parts of the hotel as early as Songkran. A firm date will be announced at a press conference, 12 April, but it is very unlikely even if the hotel opens early that it will be able to attract tourists to stay there.
City tourism officials said as many as 700 Malaysian tourists visited Hat Yai during the four-day public holiday that ended yesterday.
Commenting on the hotel’s status, Hat Yai Municipality Public Works Division director, Sukit Wattanawong, said a primary damage investigation indicated the hotel could be repaired, but a more detailed investigation had to be completed to determine if the bomb blast compromised column and foundation integrity.
Lee Gardens Plaza is the first tourist hotel to be seriously damaged by an act of terrorism.
Officials talk glibly about restoring confidence without recognising the hotel bombing marked a departure from targeting government institutions to those of a tourism value.
Deep south tourism has been in decline for more than 10 years due to insurgency and the failure of various governments to resolve the issue. The three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were developing as intermediary stopover points on a once popular overland route along the east coast of Malaysia to Singapore.
Even the night life and shopping tours to Hat Yai, sustained mainly by Malaysian tourists, have slowly declined in relevance as consumers recognise there is more value in booking holidays in Phuket, Krabi, Trang and the Gulf of Thailand island resort of Samui.
Despite these negative indicators, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Suraphon Svetasreni, said TAT has set up strategic plans to rebuild tourism and will organise trips to draw travel agents and consumers from Singapore and Malaysia during the Songkran festival.
Also new attractions in Hat Yai will be promoted both internationally and domestically, he said.
Hat Yai has been promoting its so-called “new attractions” for two decades with little or no success, due to the fact that most Malaysian tourists are visiting the town to booze and enjoy cheap sex.
The other draw card is shopping which has prompted TAT to organise a successful Thailand Grand Sale in the town annually in July The sale attracts around 500,000 shoppers.
Songkhla Business Council and the Hat Yai – Songkhla Hoteliers president, Somchart Pimthanapoonporn said tourism will take three months to recover to what it was earning a year ago.
To underscore the realities of deep south tourism, Songkhla province has set up checkpoints on 47 roads to and from the province’s main town of Hat Yai.
Police have arrested two bomb suspects and issued warrants for two other suspects identified as Seri Waemamu and Ruslan Baima in the aftermath of the bomb attack.
On Wednesday, security officers in Narathiwat arrested three men suspected of being linked to the Yala-Hat Yai bombings, which killed 14 people and injured hundreds more. The three men are Dullohaseng Yamaska, 50, Abdul Asis Hatama, 41, and Adnan Dueramae, 31.