Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thailand's international arrivals plunge drastically in wake of red-shirt turmoil

Published on April 28, 2010

Foreign tourist arrivals at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the Kingdom's main international gateway, have plunged dramatically, due to the protracted anti-government protests.

The average number of arrivals is now about 20,000 a day, down from 30,000 prior to the start of protests at the Pan Fah Bridge on March 14, Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa said yesterday.

The situation has worsened since Silom Road, in the heart of the city's central business district, was also sealed off in addition to protesters' occupying the Rajprasong area, a major tourism and shopping district.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is seeking Bt1.6 billion to stimulate tourism in both domestic and international markets, with plans for joint promotional packages in cooperation with foreign airlines and travel agencies.

As well, visas will be issued free of charge to prospective foreign visitors, including 5,800 Chinese tourists who will arrive from May 6-10, while tax incentives will be given to Thai firms holding seminars and meetings at domestic tourist destinations.

In cooperation with foreign travel agencies, the ministry may also provide extra insurance to foreign travellers in Thailand.

Tourism Council of Thailand chairman Kongkrit Hiranyakit said the political conflict would likely reduce tourist arrivals 10 per cent year on year.

"If the Cabinet approves the Bt1.6-billion budget, we should be able to engineer a recovery in the fourth quarter, which is the high season," he said.

In addition to this budget, the government has been asked to provide another Bt5-billion soft-loan facility to help businesses in areas directly hit by the protest.

The council also proposed the government pay compensation to workers in the Rajprasong area, covering 75 per cent of their wages from March 14 to the end of next month.

The council expects the number of tourists to drop 10 per cent to 12.7 million this year, from 14.1 million last year.

In conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the council will issue a statement clarifying the political situation for those foreign markets now warning their citizens about travelling to Thailand.

TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni said his agency would join hands with foreign business partners, especially international airlines, to sell Thailand more aggressively, in order to counter the downturn in tourism.

Meanwhile, major German tour company TUI yesterday announced it would suspend all tour packages to Bangkok and northern Thailand until next Monday while offering alternative destinations to its customers.

In a statement, it said all present visitors would be sent to Phuket, in the South.

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