Thai anti-government protests that have shut down parts of Bangkok may cost the nation’s tourism industry as Chinese visitors cancel trips during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Arrivals were likely to fall by half to 1 million last month, Minister of Tourism and Sports Somsak Phurisisak said on Jan. 23, with some hotels in the capital and nearby Pattaya and Hua Hin 30 percent full. The revenue loss could amount to 22.5 billion baht (US$685 million), the Tourism Council of Thailand said, with China in December warning its citizens to avoid protest sites and reconsider non-essential travel to the country.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok on Jan. 22 as attacks on protesters escalated and demonstrators blockaded Bangkok’s busiest intersections. Concerns about a slump in tourism, which contributes about 10 percent to GDP, sent the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s Tourism and Leisure Index down 3 percent last week, the worst performer among the bourse’s 27 industry groups, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Bangkok attracted almost 4.2 million visitors from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan last year, a 46 percent jump from the year before, according to government data, and Somsak said about 300,000 Chinese tourists traditionally visit the country during the Lunar New Year holiday. “We expect to see more flight reductions by airlines, especially from China,” he told reporters in Bangkok.
Singapore Airlines Ltd will cancel 43 flights between Singapore and Bangkok between Jan. 14 and Feb. 27, and Thai Airways International plans to scrap 25 flights between Hong Kong and the capital, the carriers said last week.
Advance bookings have been crimped by travel warnings from countries such as China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines and the US, whose authorities have warned citizens to avoid Bangkok’s protest hotspots. Philippines officials said on Jan. 23 its citizens in the capital should prepare to be evacuated if violence intensifies.
Tourist arrivals will decline by 7.3 percent to 6.5 million in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, the Tourism Council said in a statement on Jan. 23. Bangkok arrivals have fallen 5 percent in January from a year earlier, it said. Since the protests began in October last year, more than 550 people have been wounded and 10 killed.