Archive for the ‘red shirt’ Tag

Business and Tourism Hit Hard in Thailand

This is what everybody who opens the Hong Kong Airport official website sees on the homepage.

A Black Outbound Travel Alert is classed as “Severe Threat” … “Avoid All Travel” and has an inevitable negative effect on the destination in question – Thailand. It is also widely known that some 30 other countries have issued similar travel warnings. In fact, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport said this week that average daily arrivals at Bangkok’s Suvarnabumi Airport have dropped from 30,000 to 20,000 since the current “red shirt” protests began on March 14th.

It also should be said that anybody familiar with Thailand will know that the threat to foreign visitors is close to zero unless you go looking for trouble among the red shirt protesters or, more generally, unless you are involved in some kind of criminal activity. However, business contacts in Bangkok are now telling me that the city is effectively paralysed by the barricading of the main business and shopping areas of Silom Road and Rajprasong respectively. These same people, some of the most forward thinking, optimistic entrepreneurs I have worked with anywhere, now carry an air of despair and embarrassment that reflects the seriousness and, dare I say it, hopelessness of Thailand’s political stand-off. The financial effects of the disruption are difficult to estimate, but one direct cost will be the proposed Bt4 billion (US$115m) compensation to be paid to businesses that have had to close and employees who are unable to get to work through the barricades. 

On the positive side, the Tourism and Sports Ministry is taking positive steps to mitigate the damage to one of the Kingdom’s most important sources of foreign earnings, seeking a Bt1.6 billion (US$46m) grant to stimulate both local and international tourism by launching joint promotions with airlines and giving tax incentives for Thai companies to hold conferences at domestic resort destinations. On the assumption that these measures will take effect in time for the fourth quarter peak season, the Ministry is forecasting a 10% drop in tourist numbers from 14.1m in 2009 to 12.7m this year. In the circumstances, that seems like a success.

I shall be ignoring the travel warnings and heading for Bangkok this evening to spend two days there before heading for the “red shirt” heartlands of the north east, so will post more as I go.