Operators jittery following Itaewon Authorities urged to deal with crowds

operators jittery following itaewon  authorities urged to deal with crowds

A police officer stands guard near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, October 31, 2022. REUTERS

Thai tourism operators expressed concerns over crowded events and urged related authorities to be prepared for possible accidents after the tragedy at Itaewon in South Korea during a Halloween event.

Suthiphong Phuenphiphop, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said he remained confident that the fears of such an incident will not affect tourists’ confidence in Thailand.

Mr Suthiphong said he believed related authorities will be able to control and prevent possible chaos during the upcoming big events such as Loy Krathong this month and Songkran festival next year — two traditional events which usually attract an influx of participants.

He said the government, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Marine Department and the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation should work closely together during the Loy Krathong festival, particularly at sites along the Chao Phraya river, he said.

“It should be the government who mainly takes those responsibilities, not only the private sector or volunteers,” said Mr Suthiphong.

He said over 100,000 participants are expected to take part in Bangkok’s Loy Krathong celebrations.

He said for Thailand, deadly accidents mostly occur in closed venues, such as the Santika Pub fire in 2009 and Mountain B nightclub fire three months ago.

There were not many in open spaces as seen in the case of Itaewon district in Seoul.

At least 154 people died during the Itaewon stampede on Saturday night, including one Thai woman.

This tragedy triggered fears and worries about upcoming festive events as seen from online discussions on Thai social media.

Several concerts and shows in South Korea were cancelled as the nation mourns the tragedy.

Given the Itaewon disaster occured in a narrow sloping street, Mr Suthiphong said it would be unlikely to happen in famous nightlife spots in Bangkok like Khao San Road or Patpong as the streets are wider and flat, with junctions, allowing a better flow of people.

However, if there’s any event requiring ticket purchases, exits should not be blocked with fences.

As tours to South Korea have increased since Covid-19 curbs were lifted, Mr Suthiphong said outbound tour operators should also be aware that such incidents could possibly happen in any place, not only in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said there are no concerns from tourists or hotel guests.

“However, we should not be negligent in planning safety measures for festive events,” said Mrs Marisa.