Thai authorities are sparing no effort trying to get the message out that their country remains hospitable and safe for visitors – despite current anti-government action by supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra gripping the nation's attention.
This comes at a time when a state of emergency is in place – on top of the existing Internal Security Act, prompting 37 countries to issue travel advisories on Thailand. The directive to travellers was to apply caution and avoid protest areas.
Today, however, China, Hongkong and Malaysia issued the fifth risk level, warning people against all travel.
The Travel Industry Council of Hongkong (TIC) said it wanted to push for a week’s extension of the cancellation of package tours, which it carried out when the SAR (Special Administrative Region) government raised the alarm last week. Most members have followed this suggestion due to insurance concerns involving groups on tour.
Agents were hopeful the crisis would be over before April’s Easter break. Bangkok and Thailand as a whole has always been extremely popular with Hongkong travellers.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), backed by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), has just issued the following statement:
“Both organisations seek to reassure tourist and business travellers visiting Thailand that the protests in Bangkok have not caused major disruption in the city. The city remains a safe destination for both leisure and business travellers.
“However, although this is a domestic dispute, TAT and PATA advise all foreign nationals to exercise caution and avoid those areas of the city where the protesters have gathered.
“Whist it is entirely understandable that tourist and business travellers may have some concerns about visiting at this time, it must also be stressed that both city airports (Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi) are operating as normal; all other international and domestic airports in Thailand remain fully operational; tourist attractions in the city remain open for business; shopping malls are open; and MICE (meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition) venues are open."
In a first, Thai officials last week activated the National Tourist Assistance Centre (see news) to provide visitor assistance, a source that was not available in previous incidents such as the week-long mayhem in late 2008, caused by the Suvanabhumi occupation by pro-government groups. Thailand is continuing to offer insurance coverage worth US$10,000 to anyone harmed in riots and demonstrations as it seeks to attract tourists scared off by political turmoil.
So far, the "Red Shirts" have concentrated their activities to certain districts, most in what is called as "Old Bangkok". City residents that Business Traveller spoke in past days, said they were going about their lives normally. If there was any change, they were taking the Skytrain and subway more than usual to avoid the congestion on the streets caused by the influx of out of towners.
For information, visit www.tat.org or call the 1672 hotline.
Margie T Logarta