Thailand Travel Mart postponed


Bangkok is slowly recovering from its terrible days of turmoil early this week. On Friday, early afternoon, the Abhisit government announced that the city and most provinces had returned to normalcy. In the capital, the CRES (Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation) had indicated that the clearance of the Rachaprasong area – the central site for the Red Shirts occupaton for six weeks – would be cleared by 3:00 pm (local time). Some hospitals have already reopened, banks will also be operational from Monday, while Bong Kai(the area on Rama IV Boulevard, where most of the shooting and violence took place) has been cleaned out.

Teams from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the CRES are now evaluating the damage done on arsoned buildings. Some of the buildings will now be destroyed such as Siam Theatre, Centre One, and possibly part of the fancy CentralWorld shopping mall.

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Talking to the Skytrain operator this morning, a spokesperson told me that BTS infrastructure was not damaged at all, and they were just waiting for BMA approval to reopen the network, most probably over the weekend. At Central Pattana, the real estate and retail company owning CentralWorld, an official communication on the recovery program will be presented on Monday, according to spokesperson Mrs. Preetee. Central Pattana revealed that Zen Department Store, located in a wing of Central World complex, has been completely damaged. For the rest of the structure, the Atrium section was partially damaged. Other structures such as the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Center, as well as the Isetan Department Store and the Office Tower and Cinemas at Central World will need to be thoroughly inspected before making a decision to demolish or to keep it.

The curfew remains in place for now but does not affect travelers needing to go to the airport. Curfew times have already been extended by one hour.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Tourism started to have meetings with the private sector to look at a recovery plan. According to Mr. Sugree Sithivanich, TAT executive director of advertising and public relations, measures will be announced once consultations are completed with the private sector on May 25. Mr. Sithiwanich, however, confirmed that the Thailand Travel Mart, the Kingdom’s travel show due to take place on June 2 and 3, was postponed. Until last week, TAT was still saying that the show would take place. No new date has been set up so far, but it will probably not take place before the end of August or early September, as holidays start soon in Europe.

The recovery plan will get the full assistance from the Pacific Asia Travel Association, PATA. An announcement from the association came on Wednesday night indicating that a PATA delegation led by new Chairman Hiran Cooray met yesterday with TAT governor Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni to evaluate the needs for the tourism industry. “PATA emphasises that travel to Thailand is still safe. The major part of Bangkok remains open and accessible for tourists and business travelers with hotels, shops, and tourist sites open for business. The popular tourist resorts such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi, and Pattaya were unaffected by the protests in Bangkok city center,” said PATA CEO Greg Duffell.

BMA will also come out with a plan to restore Bangkok’s image. The city center has been declared a disaster zone to be able to get insurance money more rapidly. One thing is certain. “Bangkok is now likely to drop its slogan, ‘City of Smiles,’ which sounds unsensitive after what happened this week,” admitted Mr. Sitiwanich. Even if smiles might come again on Bangkok faces, the bitterness about the turbulent end of the Red Shirts protest is likely to stay for a long time.

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.