UK numbers to Thailand up despite protests

UK numbers to Thailand up despite protestsBy Ian Taylor

UK visitor numbers to Thailand rose at the start of the year despite plunging numbers from other markets in the face of anti-government protests in Bangkok.However, Pacific-Asia Travel Association (Pata) chief executive Martin Craigs fears “at some point there will be a cost” if protests continue.

Speaking at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin, Craigs said: “Of course, traffic [to Thailand] has dropped off.

“What is instructive is how huge the drop is according to [government] travel advisories.

“Hong Kong dropped 60% from January to January. But traffic from the UK was almost 10% up January on January.”

Craigs said the reason was: “Hong Kong’s travel advisory put Bangkok in the same category as Syria.”

The UK Foreign Office has not advised against travel to Thailand, reflecting the fact that protests have remained confined to Bangkok.

Craigs reported hotel occupancy in downtown Bangkok at 20%-30%.

He told Travel Weekly: “Of course, people book further in advance from Britain, the UK market is used to a little turmoil and the majority are not coming to spend two weeks in Bangkok.

“The UK and Hong Kong are the most extreme examples of what has happened.” Pata estimates total visitor numbers to Thailand were down 16% year on year in January.

Craigs insisted: “It’s not a Ukrainian-style situation [in Bangkok]. Twenty-two people have been killed in three months in sporadic attacks by extremists.

“Nothing has been closed: 98% of Bangkok has not been affected. The airport has not been affected at all.”

But he said: “About five million Thai jobs depend on tourism and there are 750,000 jobs at stake if this goes on.

“We have to be honest. If the situation is not resolved – and there is a lot of work to be done – at some point there will be a cost.

“We’ve had floods, the tsunami – the resilience [of Thai tourism] has been amazing. But if this continues, we can’t pretend it will be ‘teflon Thailand’ forever.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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