Political crisis hits Tourism in Thailand

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Bangkok, Sep 3: The unresolved political standoff in Thailand is taking a toll on the country's main foreign exchange earner with large-scale cancellation of tourist bookings and international business events. With a state of emergency in the capital city and key airports shut down by anti-government protesters, tourist authorities say the country is unlikely to meet this year's tourism revenue target of 700 billion Baht (about 20 billion US dollars).

September is the main booking period for the upcoming peak tourism and international business events season. Singapore and South Korea have advised citizens against non-essential travel to Thailand. Australia and New Zealand have told citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" if visiting Thailand.

Tourists are checking out of hotels in Phuket following the seizure of the airport there by anti-government protesters last week, according to Thai Hotels Association President Prakit Chinamourpong.

Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) Chairman Kongkrit Hiranyakit said 40 per cent of Thailand's tourism income comes during the months of October and November.

Many planned events are likely to be rescheduled or cancelled, according to Malinee Kitaphanich, Director of Meetings and Incentives, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau.

"Somewhere between five and 10 events in Phuket have been cancelled. We're finalising the figures for the Bangkok area in the next few days," she said. Even if the political crisis were resolved immediately, the number would drop 20 per cent, she added.

In a special briefing for the diplomatic corps in Bangkok, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said tourists should not cancel their travel plans to Thailand and that tours can still take place as normal.

Thailand will host the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting as planned starting today in the resort town of Hua Hin south of Bangkok, ministry officials told diplomats.

Thousands of anti-government protestors under the banner of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continued their seizure of the Prime Minister's office for the eighth day today despite a ban on the assembly of more than five people.

Army chief General Anupong Paochinda who is now in charge of law and order in the national capital has ruled out use of force to remove the PAD protesters and insisted there is no possibility of a military takeover of government.

The PAD is demanding Prime Minister Samak Sundarvej's resignation before it agrees to negotiate an end to its campaign.

UNI

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