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Pattaya Daily News

31 August 2008 :: 17:08:42 pm 24980

Thai tourism facing a particularly bad time

PHUKET, A lot of foreign tourists walked around cars lining the highway to Phuket's airport, hoping for an end to the protest that has shuttered the runway.
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“We don’t know what happened, we don’t know anything about Thai politics,” said one German tourist. “They keep telling us we are on standby, but they are still not sure if our flight can take off”, a traveller, among 15,000 passengers stranded in Phuket since anti-government protesters marched Friday on Phuket’s airport, forcing a cancellation of all the nearly 120 daily flights.

Similar protests closed down the airport in nearby Krabi and the southern commercial centre of Hat Yai, cutting off air traffic to much of southern Thailand.

So far only Hat Yai has reopened, leaving air links cut to Phuket, the crown jewel of Thai tourism.

The protests in Bangkok turned violent Friday, with skirmishes between activists and police.

Only about 35 people suffered minor injuries, but Australia, Britain and the United States have warned their nationals to exercise caution travelling here, while South Korea has urged tourists to postpone their plans.

Thai tourism has weathered political protests before, when street demonstrations led to a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

But travellers have so far been undeterred by the political turmoil, just as they kept coming after the Indian Ocean tsunami, deadly bombings in downtown Bangkok and a fiery plane crash in Phuket.

“The current political stand-off will absolutely have an adverse effect on our tourism industry but the extent of the damage will depend on how long the turmoil lasts,” said Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotel Association.

“It would be best if it ended swiftly,” he said, according to AFP.

Even before the protests broke out, tourism growth showed signs of slowing.
But some experts predict Thailand will once again rebound, in part because political turmoil here has become seen as somewhat normal.






  “We’re still generally bullish on Thailand,” said Oliver Martin, an associate director at industry body the Pacific Asia Travel Association, to AFP.

Even if the political situation deteriorated into another coup, Martin told AFP that he did not expect many people to change their travel plans.

“If anything, the security situation with these coups is nothing new in Thailand,” he said. “It’s taken as fact. If you look at their history, they have coups every couple of years.”

“Here, it’s generally not violent and generally its looked at as a domestic issue.”

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Tourism News

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