Thailand hopes tsunami films will lure tourists back
18 May 2005 10:47:01 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Sasithorn Simaporn

BANGKOK, May 18 (Reuters) - Thailand is hoping that a clutch of Hollywood movies and TV documentaries on the Asian tsunami planned to be shot in the country might actually help bring back tourists to its devastated beaches, officials said on Wednesday.

The U.S. network CBS is eyeing locations on the tourist island of Phuket, one of six Thai provinces hit by the giant waves last year, for a four-part series on the tsunami, they said.

Warner Brothers and Hollywood director John McTiernan, who directed the action movie "Die Hard", were also expected to shoot separate films on the disaster in Thailand, a spokesman for the Tourism Authority of Thailand said.

Thai Tourism Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said he was counting on movies to boost tourism similar to what the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy did for New Zealand's tourist trade.

"If we can put some Thai scenes in a movie, whether it's about the tsunami or not, more tourists will want to come to Thailand," Somsak told Reuters.

Thailand has struggled to lure visitors back to its Andaman Sea playground where nearly 5,400 people died on Dec. 26, including almost 2,000 foreigners. Tourism accounts for 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

International arrivals at Phuket airport were down 77 percent in January-March compared with the first three months of 2004.

Phuket, where 239 people died, suffered far less damage than luxury resorts at Khao Lak, about 140 km (90 miles) north, where more than 3,000 died and almost no hotels have reopened.

A spokesman for the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the agency would review the scripts proposed by CBS for its one-hour episode on Thailand.

"There were some good things that happened in Thailand during the tsunami," he said, referring to the massive relief effort that followed the disaster.

"We do not want to emphasise the debris, lost lives and tears anymore," he said.