BANGKOK – After more than a week of violence, protests and battles with police in Bangkok, Thailand’s tourism industry has plunged into a mood of pessimism.
Tourism leaders are now predicting a decline in visits for the remainder of December. Travel from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China will take an almost immediate hit. In past disruptions, these markets declined within a week of an outbreak of violence.
Association of Domestic Travel president, Yutthachai Soonthroneattanavate, said the ongoing of demonstrations will impact on local tourism. Destinations in the north were already reporting lower than expected bookings for this week’s Father’s Day holiday.
“Actually, tourism is the first sector to suffer… its about travel, enjoyment and when these factors are threatened people spend on other items or they stay home…the situation will reduce domestic travel by 20% to 30% during the peak month.”
The president cited: “Today, tourism is sluggish, while there is no movement in room reservations in the first week of this month both to the north and northeast.
“However, there is no reports of cancellations…tourists are delaying their plans putting them on hold,” he added.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has not been seen publicly at the weekend but cancelled a trip to South Africa, is hemmed in on all sides and may be forced to dissolve the house and call for a new election. She met with police officers this morning who are still confronting hardcore protesters attempting to occupy the police headquarters.
Around 1,0000 police officers are protecting government and the police headquarters. They have been brought in from the provinces.
Protesters are attempting to overthrow the government and install a People’s Council selected rather than elected to run the country until the “so-called Thaksin Shinawatra regime” can be cleansed from society.
In this environment of uncertainty 32 nations issued travel warnings. Many of them have since raised the alert level from stay away from protest sites to visit other destinations other than Bangkok if at all possible.
Thai Travel Agents Association president, Suthiphong Phuenphiphop, said tour operators have been warning their clients to stay away from the demonstration areas not from other parts of Bangkok.
However, that is now likely to change mainly due to difficulty encountered getting around the city or visiting tourist attractions that are in the same vicinity as the protest sites.
Shopping malls in downtown Bangkok near the BTS main station at Siam Square are open and train lines are operating once more.
Tourism Council of Thailand president, Piyaman Techapaibul, admitted that every time there is a protest or political unrest, tourism slows down soon afterwards.
“Until the atmosphere improves, tourists will be reluctant to book travel…it is depends on the political situation.”
So far, 32 countries have issued travel warnings. They are: the United States; Canada; Brazil; the United Kingdom; France; Sweden; Germany; Austria; Spain; Belgium; the Netherlands; Denmark; Norway; Finland; Hungary; Italy; Slovakia; Isael; Japan; China; Taiwan; South Korea; Singapore; Russia; Australia; Ireland; Switzerland; Hong Kong; India; Mexico; Luxembourg; and Czech Republic.
Those countries have advised their nationals in the country to avoid protest-prone areas such as Victory Monument, Democracy Monument and government offices.