Tourism body urges dialogue to end strife

Tourism body urges dialogue to end strife

Tour operators mixed on arrival impact

Protesters crowd around the Kaset intersection, the primary site of the rallies held on Monday. Varuth Hirunyatheb
Protesters crowd around the Kaset intersection, the primary site of the rallies held on Monday. Varuth Hirunyatheb

Tourism operators are urging the government to engage in a dialogue with protesters without triggering another coup, as that would bury the economy.

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said any political upheaval affects tourist sentiment, even with travel restrictions banning most foreign arrivals.

"If the situation's gone too far, I am concerned a coup will worsen the economy and affect the country's image on the global stage," Mr Chairat said.

"A coup is not the ultimate solution to the problem."

He said tourism operators need the government to open a dialogue with protesters, whether officially or unofficially. The government should respect and listen to them as they are reasonable.

If there is a prolonged dispute, it could harm the tourism industry, especially if there is another coup, said Mr Chairat.

"At this moment, the government has to show protesters and Thais the improvements they have brought about during the past six years, instead of harassing them for speaking up," he said.

Mr Chairat said student-led rallies are not only in Bangkok's central business district, but also across the country, so some tourism destinations may be inconvenienced.

In an unstable political climate, people tend to save more money, limiting their spending on tourism in case there is an emergency, he said.

In contrast, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said international tourism sentiment is unfazed by heated politics as inbound travellers have maintained their travel plans under the special tourist visa scheme.

All 29 TAT overseas offices are monitoring international feedback closely, but so far there are no concerns about political issues as borders remain closed.

The first group of Chinese tourists from Shanghai are expected to arrive on Tuesday around 5pm at Suvarnabhumi airport and undergo 14 days of isolation at an alternative state quarantine.

On Oct 26, a second group of tourists from Guangzhou, previously bound for Phuket, will enter the country via Suvarnabhumi airport.

While Europe faces soaring infection rates, the agency will keep information up to date and only approve tourists arriving from low-risk areas, such as a Scandinavian group set to arrive in November, he said.

Despite the emergency decree in Bangkok, this is not the first time this kind of enforcement has been put in place and tourists mostly plan to visit beach destinations.

"It is too early to assess the impact on tourism as mass gatherings have occurred recently and there has been no violence," Mr Yuthasak said.

TAT has arranged a meeting with operators on Tuesday, discussing additional domestic measures for tour operators and offering hotel vouchers.

The TAT also helped to organise the Loy Krathong festival on Oct 31 this year in Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Tak, Samut Songkhram and Roi Et, expecting to draw 970,000 domestic trips and generate tourism revenue of 14 billion baht.

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