Thai tourism receives first blow from unrest


Thai tourism has received its first blow from the ongoing unrest when three groups, according to Thai hotelier Andrew J. Wood, have already cancelled reservations Tuesday morning.

“Cancellations came mainly from the government sector, but also a local MICE function, and we are receiving cancellations from FIT Corporate Japanese,” Wood wrote in a letter sent to eTN. “The question of whether five or more passengers can meet under the emergency decree will wipe out the conference market. Bad news if it is enforced.”

According to Wood, occupancy is down to 55 percent and dropping. It could reach 40 percent if the situation does not improve. “Normally we would anticipate 75 percent in September, which is the start of the rainy season and one of our quieter months,” he added.

Measures from the hoteliers’ side have been enforced to deal with the current situation, such as laying-off casual staff and getting rid of overtime, as well as closing bedroom floors to conserve energy. “Strikes that will affect water, electricity and transportation are going to lead to some restrictions to tourists, but at present all airports are now operating normally,” added Wood.

“Ninety-nine percent of Thailand remains largely unaffected,” added Wood. “The ‘hot spot’ is in and around the Government House, an area to be avoided.”

“The effect of the military on the streets will give a message that things are actually worse than they are,” said Wood.

However, Wood also said that, “Driving into work [Tuesday] morning, everything was normal, traffic was normal and people appeared to just be getting on with things like yesterday. There were no signs of any military and the police were directing traffic as usual.”

In terms of revenue, Wood said he expects September business to be affected in all three major revenue areas — rooms, restaurants and conference/banqueting. He is projecting “the loss to be as high as Baht4 million (US$116,000) for our Bangkok property alone.”

Major events such as HRH Prince Andrew’s visit to Bangkok, organized by the British Chamber of Commerce, and evening function at the Grand Hyatt tonight have been cancelled, following Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s declaring a state of emergency for the Thai capital.

Association of Thai Travel Agents president Apichart Sankary told TTG that onward bookings for the coming high season, from October to March or April, have dropped by five percent “partly from the world economy and partly from the protests in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.”

On the bright side, the number of charter flights from Scandinavian to Phuket and Krabi in the coming high seasons remained unchanged, according to Sankary. He told TTG that TUI Nordic and Thomas Cook had yesterday jointly launched the first flight of the twice-weekly charter flights from Scandinavia to Phuket.

“Fortunately the airport has re-opened; otherwise it would have been a different story and would most likely affect the plan for more charter flights, starting from end-October,” he was quoted as saying.

The Tourism Council of Thailand, (TCT) too has called for the Thai government and the protesters to put national interests first, citing the already visible negative impact on domestic and international tourism. “If the situation continues, it will result in several countries issuing travel warnings, which will make it difficult to convince tourists to come back (to Thailand),” it warned.

Citing an insight from an analyst, reported that Thai stocks are likely to continue to decline after sliding to their lowest in 19 months on Tuesday over worries about political unrest that led to a state of emergency being imposed.

So far, the countries that have issued travel advisories include South Korea, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia.