Suvarnabhumi not even yet back to full steam and thousands of travellers
still stranded in Thailand, it may be a little early to start looking at what
Thailand needs to do to kick start the tourism industry it's economy so
dearly needs. But
with many hotels reporting less than 10% occupancy rates, and more gloom
projected, now may be as good a time as any.
Billions of dollars have been pumped into making Thailand a world class destination,
with improved infrastructure, hotels, spas and resorts that rank among the
best in the world. But this year, little by little, serious cracks have been
appearing in all the efforts made by TAT and the industry within
Thailand as a whole.
first there were protests, just a few here and there, scattered in areas
that were easily avoidable by tourists. Then a few small bombs, a state
of emergency declared in Bangkok. And then, the first very serious blow
to tourism of the year came when the airports of Hat Yai, Krabi and
Phuket were all closed by anti-government protestors, leaving thousands
of innocent tourists stranded.
issues, combined with an ever-worsening global economy meant that the
high season in Thailand, which traditionally starts in November and
lasts until around May, was already much quieter than in previous years.
The streets of Bangkok, Hua Hin, and other areas of Thailand were not as
bustling with tourists eager to spend, as they normally are at this time
of the year.
the unexpected happened. PAD, the anti-government protestors, took siege
of one of Thailand's main economic life lines and closed Suvarnabhumi
International Airport and Don Muang Airport, both in Bangkok. Holding
the airports siege for 8 days made the closure of the smaller airports
in the south now seem like a small push in the chest compared to the
massive knock out blows that were to follow.
tourism industry in Thailand is nothing but resilient, it overcame the 1997
financial crises, the tsunami, SARS, 9/11 and other problems, but today it is fighting
a much more fearsome opponent - chaos and uncertainty.
how will it overcome the damage caused by the anti-government
protestors? Is Thailand safe to visit?
first, Thailand will need to look domestically for its tourism revenue,
through very special deals for Thai residents and also the domestic MICE market.
The latter especially, may now be reluctant to send 100 or 200 people on a trip
overseas when there is uncertainty on how, or when, they might come back.
International tourism is not dead. The government, TAT, and private
sector need to combine, to give travellers that do come back to Thailand
some form of assurances of what will happen if ever the protestors
returned to close the airports. Which is exactly what the protestors
have already threatened to do. Insurance companies are unlikely to foot
the bill, but if a recognised plan by each sector within the industry
can be put in place, that will at least counter some of the concerns that
travellers may have. Solid guarantees need to be given.
is also a golden opportunity for bodies such as PATA to stand up and be
counted. To organise roundtables, seminars with other organisations such
as SKAL, TICA, TAT, the media, AoT etc that all within the industry can
attend without any charge to brainstorm and try to come up with solid
plans to move forward.
is Thailand safe? Ask this question three weeks ago and an immediate
answer would have been yes, Thailand is safe. However, nobody could have
predicted what the PAD protestors would consequently do, nobody could
foresee how much damage was about to be caused by their actions to the
economy, and Thailand's image. And nobody can predict what will happen
tomorrow, one week from now or further down the road. This is the uncertainty
is an amazing country, with one of the richest and most beautiful
cultures in the world. It has a cuisine which is celebrated and enjoyed
daily the world over. There are pristine beaches, incredible bargains,
excellent deals, there is something for everyone in every price range.
So to answer the question - is Thailand safe? "Yes, but", and it is not
the tourism industry that can remove the "but", that can only
be done by the Thai people themselves and their political system.
and the ability to do trade through travel, is of such a great importance to the Thai economy and people of Thailand
as a whole, it should, and must, be welcomed by all, no matter what
politically allegiances one may have.
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