Pattaya AdFest shelved

Annual event delayed on political concerns

Rising political tensions in Thailand have claimed a high-profile victim in the Asia Pacific Advertising Festival (AdFest), whose organisers yesterday postponed their annual event in Pattaya to the middle of May.

The top annual meeting of Asia-Pacific ad industry professionals was initially planned for March 18-20 in the seaside resort town that is located just a two-hour drive from Bangkok.

Vinit Suraphongchai, chairman of the AdFest working committee, said most foreign participants had already been informed of the two-month postponement.

"We are worried about the gloomy political situation, which could affect visitors to the country, due to the possibility of political rallies scheduled to be held in the week prior to AdFest," he said.

Red-shirt supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have vowed to gather in major provinces nationwide on March 12 and then head to Bangkok on March 14 to pressure the Democrat government to dissolve Parliament.

The working committee received several inquiries from foreign participants about whether it was safe to travel to Thailand during that period. Some did not want to come here because of safety concerns.

"We hope there will be no violence to scare people, but we don't know what will happen. So rather than risk an injury, we said, 'It's better to be safe than sorry'," he said.

Many governments have warned their citizens about travel to Thailand during this period of political unrest.

AdFest was planned to take place at the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel, the same venue where anti-government protesters disrupted an Asean summit last April.On the other hand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Grammy Group, co-organisers of the Pattaya International Music Festival 2010, insist their event will go on as planned from March 19-21.

"If there are changes, we will inform the public immediately," a spokesman said.

Adamas Incorporation, which plans to stage a big concert called Show King M with 100 artists on April 6 in Bangkok, also said it would continue as planned.

"We will watch the political situation. If anything violent happens or the airport closes again, we will cancel our concert for sure. We have already prepared for political risks by buying insurance coverage for the concert," CEO Nuttavut Manosuthi said.

Adamas had to cancel a concert in late 2008 when Suvarnabhumi Airport was shut down by civilian protesters.

Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, the director of government and corporate affairs at the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, said there had been no cancellations of overseas reservations for meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (Mice) events here.

"The overall picture is still the same. The asset confiscation verdict for Mr Thaksin has not caused serious impact for Mice travellers so far," he said.

The TCEB believes the protests on March 12-14 will be concluded peacefully. However, it plans to co-operate with all parties in the event that an incident happens.

Akapol Sorasuchart, the TCEB president, said local Mice customers may be more sensitive than foreign ones because local customers are more aware of local news reports.

Prakit Piriyakiat, the TAT deputy governor for marketing communications, said foreign tourists including sensitive Chinese and Japanese travellers remain committed to their overseas plans.

"Foreign tourists seem to better understand the political situation in Thailand involves periodic protests," he said. "As long as there is no violence, we believe the country's tourism still has a positive outlook."