CHIANGRAI Times – The recent car bombs in Su-ngai Kolok district of Narathiwat province have prompted ten countries to warn their citizens against traveling to Southern Thailand, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT.
In the wake of three deadly car explosions in Su-ngai Kolok district on 16 September, which left 50 people injured and 4 dead, TAT Deputy Governor for Asia and South Pacific Markets Sansern Ngaorungsri stated that several nations had instructed travelers to avoid visiting the three southern border provinces of Thailand.
The recent car bombs in Su-ngai Kolok district of Narathiwat province have prompted ten countries to warn their citizens against traveling to Southern Thailand
They include Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Korea, Portugal and Malaysia. Meanwhile, ten other countries, consisting of Australia, Canada, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, have cautioned their citizens against coming to the Deep South.
Nonetheless, Mr Sansern believed the bomb attack only had short-term effects on local tourism, citing that Su-ngai Kolok still remained a popular destination among foreign tourists. According to the Deputy Governor, the number of Asian visitors to Thailand during the first eight months of this year reportedly stands at 6.9 million, a 35 percent increase year-on-year. Chinese tourists alone account for 1.1 million.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is preparing plans to deal with negative factors including the weak European economy, widespread local floods and the violence in the Deep South.
Europe is one of the most important markets for Thai tourism. The state agency is concerned mainly about a slowdown in arrivals from the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. It expects some indirect but less severe impact on tourist numbers from Scandinavia, Germany and France.
“Many European countries still have potential to grow, including Russia, Poland and the Netherlands,” said Juthaporn Rerngronasa, the TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing.
“We have to keep existing key markets like the UK and Germany by promoting niche products such as medical, green and golf tourism.”
In the first eight months of 2011, Russian tourist arrivals to Thailand rose by 79% to 452,047 and are expected to reach one million by year-end. Medical and beauty tourism has potential to grow among Russian tourists.
“Russians prefer to visit South Korea for plastic surgery and weight reduction,” she said. “Therefore, we want to capture this segment and join with medical tourism operators such as Bangkok Hospital to promote medical and plastic surgery in Thailand. We’re also promoting honeymoon destinations.”
The TAT also plans to promote Thailand in North African countries including Tunisia, and Morocco.
The agency expects European tourist arrivals will increase to 5.12 million this year, from 4.45 million last year. In the first eight months, the figure grew by 19% to 3.8 million.
TAT governor Surapol Svetaseni said its crisis management centre was now monitoring the flooding situation, adding that key tourist sites had been affected in Ayutthaya, Uthai Thani, and Phichit.
But the recent car bomb explosion in Sungai Kolok district, which killed three Malaysians and one Thai and wounded at least 110, has shaken tourist confidence and 10 countries have issued travel warnings for the three border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala. Eight other countries have issued travel advisories to their citizens travelling to the area.
Sansern Ngaorungsi, deputy governor for Asia and the South Pacific, said the TAT had held talks with tour operators and media to explain the situation in the Deep South, and that its impact on tourism should be short-lived.
The TAT is confident that the number of tourist arrivals from Asia will grow by 30% to 11 million this year. In the first eight months, the figure rose 35% to 6.9 million.