Will the Visit Year Thailand 2009 help the Kingdom to boost tourists confidence again ?

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Renewed political turmoil in Thailand did not hamper the Tourism Authority of Thailand to organize a lavish party with invited travel media and travel agents from all around the world to celebrate the launch of its “Visit Year Thailand 2009”. “I convey my sincere appreciation for the thousand of guests who accepted to come for this event,” stated Phornsiri Manoharn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The 1,049 invited guests –including 320 from Europe- stay for a week in the country and will tour Northern, Northeastern and Southern Thailand to check on their own that the situation is fully normal in the entire Kingdom. “Please, convey the message that travellers can travel all around the country and in other areas of Bangkok beside the government’s district without any problems,” explained Tourism and Sport Minister Weerasak Kowsurat during the opening ceremony.

The Minister recognized however that TAT and all people involved in tourism would need to work harder to lure back foreign travellers to the country and regain their confidence. But he expressed his confidence in the capability of Thailand to recover. “Our country has a great potential in terms of tourism development with 14 new areas identified as unique and highly promising tourism destinations,” said Kowsurat.

In another statement, a spokesman from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted that foreigners were not involved into the political conflict and that the place affected by casualties was confined to a one-km2 area. Life continues as usual in other parts of the country and Bangkok. “Political violence is indeed an upsetting , if not a regrettable situation. However, like in other democracies, Thai people have the freedom to assemble and demonstrate against governments,” he added.

The “Visit Year Thailand 2009” could be an opportunity for TAT to obtain more funds for promotion. Many road shows will be organized around the world with Thai Airways supporting the event. Flg. Off. Apinan Sumanaseni, President of Thai Airways International, detailed to the audience the national carrier’s support to the tourism industry, including a special “Amazing Thailand” flights package for foreign travellers.

The airline hopes also that the “Visit Year” might help to ponder declining load factors. According to Thai Airways VP Sales and Marketing, Pandit Chanapai, as quoted by the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s national carrier has seen recently its average load factor plunging to 70%. “The situation has deteriorated from bad to worse, ell beyond our expectations”, he said. TG is now looking at reducing its frequencies on many routes this coming winter.