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Panda cub expected to boost Thai tourism

May 31, 2009

Thailand - Wednesday's birth of a baby panda in the Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo is expected to give a big boost to tourism in the northern province.

As the birthplace and current residence of the female first offspring of popular giant pandas Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, Chiang Mai is preparing to welcome even more visitors wishing to see the cub.

"Thanks to the cub, the number of tourists should rise at least 10 per cent this year," said Chalermsak Suranant, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Chiang Mai office.

Last year, 5 million tourists visited Chiang Mai, generating Bt38 billion in revenue.

Although tourism in Chiang Mai has slumped 510 per cent during the first five months of the year, an uptrend is now in sight.

"This is good news, and we're delighted," said Chalermsak.

On loan from China, parents Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui have lived at the Chiang Mai Zoo since 2003.

Chalermsak said his office would consult with the zoo on pandacub tourism campaigns.

"The cub is cute. Aside from China and Japan, Chiang Mai will be the only place in Asia where tourists can see a baby panda," he pointed out.

Chalermsak said the cub would be put on direct public display only after it grew stronger and bigger.

Zoo visitors can now watch the young panda and mother Lin Hui only on a television monitor. CCTV cameras have been installed inside their cage.

Veterinarians and panda expert Wei Ming have proclaimed the panda cub healthy. Lin Hui holds her baby all the time.

"The mother's health is fine, too. Her stress has clearly subsided, and she's begun to eat and rest more," said Zoological Park Organisation assistant director Dr Boripat Siriaroonrat.

Chiang Mai Zoo director Thanapat Pongamorn believes the panda cub will attract a large number of tourists to the facility this weekend.

"We're preparing a corner where tourists can express their congratulations on the cub's birth," he said. "We're also making pandacub souvenirs."

The Chiang Mai Zoo receives 3,000 visitors on a typical weekend.

"But from now on, we expect the jump in the number," Thanapat said.

However, Thanapat said it would be three months before direct public display of the cub could be allowed.

Panda cub expected to boost Thai tourism
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