After the oil clean up, the Tourism Authority of Thailand steps in to put a shine back on the island’s battered image.

The agency announced a draft plan, late last week, that will tweak Samet Island’s tourism image following a devastating oil slick that closed Phrao Bay on the island’s west coast.

TAT Rayong office outlined the short and long-term draft rehabilitation plan over the weekend starting with the first of a series of media trips. Overall, 200 media representatives, travel agents from northeast Thailand and tourism business associations including executives from Ministry of Tourism and Sports attended the first inspection trip.

TAT will also organise two-day and one-night inspection trips to meet with the island’s tourism operators for the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations. The trips will include media and travel agents from Bangkok and surrounding provinces. Out of Pattaya tour operators, who organise trips to the island for Russian and Chinese clients, will also be invited.

The plan calls for a music festival, a fair on the beaches, a seafood festival at Sai Kaew beach. Similar activities will also be organised on mainland beaches; Mae Ram Phung and Lam Mae Pim. There are plans to introduce overnight packages to the island selling at Bt999.

A clean-up day will also be organised every three months at Phrao Bay.

In the long-term, TAT will organise booths for Samet Island and Rayong tourism operators at international trade shows such as ITB Berlin and WTM London, a leisure fair in Moscow and a tourism fair in Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming, China.

Similar efforts will be in place at two domestic travel shows; Tiew Muang Thai at Muang Thong Thani and Thai Tiew Thai at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.

In the background authorities will continue testing water quality and work on the difficult task of saving coral reefs around Phrao Bay that were badly damaged by the oil slick.

Fortunately for Samet’s tourism business, all the attractive beaches are on the east coast with the exception of Phrao Bay. As long as the southwest monsoon winds blow, east coast beaches are protected from any residue from the oil slick.

However, regular inspections of all the beaches will be carried out and teams will be employed to clean up any oil tar spots that get washed up on beaches, ahead of the peak season that begins in November.

The crude oil leak sprung, 27 July, in an offshore pipeline belonging to PTT Global Chemical Public Limited Company that is used to transfer crude oil from tankers anchored well off shore. About 50,000 litres of oil leaked into the sea about 20 km off the coast of mainland Rayong province.

Samet Island, about 3 km off the coast of Rayong and 150 km southeast of Bangkok, is a popular holiday spot for Thais and foreigners living in the capital. The island attracts about 1 million visitors a year, mostly on weekends.