Operators unfazed by Mideast situation
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Operators unfazed by Mideast situation

Tourism operators view the Israel-Iran conflict and Dubai floods as having a short-term impact on long-haul arrivals, while outbound tourists remain hesitant about visiting the region amid the ongoing conflict.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said following heavy rains in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that disrupted operations at Dubai airport on Wednesday, airlines have started to resume some flights.

Mr Siripakorn said the flood is a short-term disruption to tourism. He said arrivals from both the Middle East and long-haul passengers travelling to Thailand via Dubai should return to normal levels soon.

Meanwhile, Israeli national carrier El Al has resumed its one to three daily flights from Tel Aviv to Bangkok and Phuket with a healthy load factor, after halting the routes between April 13-14 due to airspace closure in the region.

The number of Israeli arrivals dropped to 439 on April 14, from 1,045 on April 11, but the market has started to rebound to the level before the Iran attack with 1,061 arrivals on April 17, said Mr Siripakorn.

However, the agency is still closely monitoring conflicts in the Middle East to see how they could affect the long-haul market in the long term.

This year, the TAT is targeting around 367,000 Israeli arrivals, 250,000 tourists from the UAE and 320,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia.

Suksit Suvunditkul, president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, said conflict in the Middle East would not affect Phuket's hotel outlook this quarter, as it is the low season for long-haul tourists, prompting the island to target short-haul markets such as China and India instead.

Middle Eastern tourists are expected to flock to Phuket again during the rainy season in July and August, he said.

Chotechuang Soorangura, vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, some Thai travellers are shunning destinations in the Middle East and nearby areas such as Turkey and Georgia because of concerns over consequences related to intensifying conflicts.

Popular tour packages that usually combine Israel and Jordan, including the ancient city of Petra and a desert tour, have been paused, he said.

With the ongoing geopolitical conflict, the number of flights and seats could not fully recover, leading to more expensive airfares which have discouraged Thais with limited budgets from travelling abroad, especially to long-haul destinations in the Middle East and Europe.

Given the flood in Dubai, which is the most visited aviation hub for long-haul trips from Thailand, Mr Chotechuang said the incident would only have a limited impact as the situation is easing.

He said there are other hubs which can serve as backups such as airports in Turkey and Qatar.

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