Melbourne, Jan 7: Anti-government protests that shut down Bangkok's airports last year have cost Thailand 11.5 billion dollars, much more than loses suffered during the Tsunami or SARS, a central bank study has said.
Demonstrators opposed to the previous government's ties to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra occupied the capital's international and domestic airports for more than a week from late November to early December in 2008.
The protesters from the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy movement dispersed after a court verdict brought down the government, but a Bank of Thailand study said the economic damage from the siege was huge.
The shutdown of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports between November 25 and December 4 prevented 3.4 million tourists from visiting Thailand. "The losses are more serious than SARS and the tsunami because those two were short-term," the study said, referring to the global Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003 and the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The study predicted that tourist arrivals in Thailand this year would fall 8.8 percent year on year to 12.8 million, news.com.au reported.
Thailand' tourism industry accounts for five percent of GDP and employs some two million people or up to seven percent of the country's total workforce.
"The political unrest has not only affected the tourism industry but also other related industries," said the study, titled Thailand's Tourism Industry After The Closure Of Airports. It said the losses included 120 billion baht (4.75 billion dollars) in the service industry, 90 billion baht (3.56 billion dollars) in logistics and 60 billion baht (2.38 billion dollars) in industry.