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Thailand Tourism Industry Prospects Remain Fragile

By on Mar 17, 2014 in Hotel-Tourism

UK visitor numbers to Thailand rose at the start of the year despite plunging numbers from some other markets in the face of anti-government protests in Bangkok.  However, “at some point there will be a cost” if protests continue, according to Martin Craigs, chief executive of the Bangkok-based Pacific-Asia Travel Association (Pata).  The “Teflon Thailand” image the country has earned for its “amazing” ability to bounce back from crises can’t last forever, he added.  “Of course, traffic [to Thailand] has dropped off,” he told the UK-based Travel Weekly in an interview at ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest travel trade fair.  “What is instructive is how huge the drop is according to [government] travel advisories.  Visitors walk past a cardboard cutout featuring a traditional Thai dancer at the Thailand stand of the ITB International Travel Trade Fair in Berlin.

“Hong Kong dropped 60% from January 2013 to January 2014. But traffic from the UK was almost 10% up [in the same period].”  Mr Craigs said the reason was simple: “Hong Kong’s travel advisory put Bangkok in the same category as Syria.”  The UK Foreign Office has not advised against travel to Thailand, acknowledging the fact that the protests have been confined to limited areas of Bangkok.  However, Mr Craigs reported hotel occupancy in downtown Bangkok at just 20-30%.

“We have to be honest. If the situation is not resolved – and there is a lot of work to be done – at some point there will be a cost.  “We’ve had floods, the tsunami – the resilience [of Thai tourism] has been amazing. But if this continues, we can’t pretend it will be ‘Teflon Thailand’ forever.”

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