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Thailand tourism

Thailand plans $450 mln to help tourist sector

Reuters  Dec 26, 2008

$450 million) package for reviving its important tourist sector, badly hit by a crippling week-long airport blockade, the Tourism Minister said on Thursday.

"If businesses fail, it will cause damage to the country," Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-Archa told reporters after meeting with private tourism operators.

The 4-year rescue plan will help a tourist industry suffering from the effects of the closure of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport closure during November as it was blockaded by anti-government protesters. The blockade paralysed the industry and stranded 300,000 travellers. The government fears the period may have tarnished its image as a tourist destination for years.

Tourism directly employs 1.8 million people in Thailand and brings in the equivalent of 6 percent of gross domestic product, making it a major economic driver.

"We have already lost 100 billion baht in revenues and more than 2 million tourists from the airport closure," he said of the blockade during the peak tourist season. He did not elaborate.

The $4-billion airport handles more than 100,000 passengers and outbound cargo worth around $85 million each day.

Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said he expected the number of foreign tourists of 12-13 million next year, compared with 16 million projected by the Tourism Authority of Thailand before the airport siege.

"If the situation gets better, we may have more than 13 million tourists next year," he told the meeting, but gave no projection for this year.

Apichart said normally Thailand welcomed 8,000-12,000 foreign tourists a day during the peak season that started in November, but the number fell to 5,400 after the airport shut.

"Now we seem to have three low seasons in a row," he said.
($1=34.75 Baht)

Thailand plans $450 mln to help tourist sector

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