At least one million Thais employed in the tourism sector could lose their jobs next year due to the damage being done to the industry by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters through their invasion of the two Bangkok airports.
The government has decided to spend around one billion baht to help the stranded foreign tourists in Thailand and Thais stranded overseas to fly home. Deputy Prime Minister Olarn Chaipravat, who oversees economic affairs, held a press conference at the Foreign Ministry yesterday where he said hotels, restaurants and tour agencies made up the industry hardest hit by the PAD’s seizure of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.
Thailand, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, could suffer a dramatic fall in visitors next year if the country’s political crisis drags on. Mr Olarn said he expected tourist arrivals to fall to 13.5 million this year from 14.5 million last year, and to 6 million to 7 million people next year.
“Next year, foreign tourist arrivals may fall by half and about one million people may be jobless if we don’t have any measures to help them,” said Mr Olarn after attending an urgent meeting at the ministry to discuss ways to help the stranded here and Thais stuck overseas due to the closure of the two airports. He said the government would allocate at least one billion baht to take care of the stranded passengers in Thailand and the 50,000 Thais grounded overseas as a result of the imposition of emergency rule at the two airports.
The Tourism and Sport Ministry would pay 2,000 baht per head per day for their accommodation and meals.
Mr Olarn has arranged a meeting with owners of tourism businesses tomorrow to evaluate the situation and discuss the tourism plan for next year. Major airlines are setting up temporary check-in counters at six major locations in Bangkok: the Asia Hotel, JW Marriott Hotel, Mae Nam Hotel, Centara Grand Hotel, Imperial Queen’s Park and the Bitec Convention Centre in Bang Na.
Weerasak Kohsurat, the tourism and sport minister, has apologised to the stranded visitors for the inconvenience caused and told them they would have to wait for a few more days before they could access these check-in points as the systems still need some adjustments to meet international requirements.
“I would like to urge all the Thai people to help take care of these foreign tourists, as that would be a good way of expressing our friendship in time of crisis,” said Mr Weerasak.