Thailand coup: Tourism sector urges formation of new government soon

Chinese tourists pose for a picture inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Chinese tourists pose for a picture inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's tourism sector has called for the urgent formation of a new government to lure back tourists so the industry can continue to grow.

"We need to have a new government as soon as we possible. If not, there would be nobody to deal with and we eventually would suffer a greater negative impact," said Pornthip Hirunkate, vice-president of Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

The military on Thursday declared a coup and curfew that rocked the inbound tourism industry. Tourists around the world have been advised to consider their safety before visiting Thailand.

"More than 50 nations have already issued travel warnings to avoid visiting the country. Among these, Hong Kong raised the warning to the top level," Pornthip said.

"Furthermore, tourists, even from long-haul markets like the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and some other Europe countries, have postponed their trips."

A lot of business and leisure tourists have reportedly cancelled trips to Thailand last week.

The TCT, however, believes that the sector could record growth this year if a new government is put in place quickly and confidence in Thailand as a safe destination returns.

The council said next month's Thailand Travel Mart in Bangkok was a chance for the industry to shine.

According to Pornthip, tourism has suffered since the last coup in 2006 while other political issues, including the airport shutdown and street protests, have also had an impact, as did the severe floods in 2011. Despite that, the number of arrivals has continued to grow.

In 2006, Thailand received 13.8 million tourists. By 2013, the number of visitors had risen to 26.7 million, an increase of 19.6 per cent.

It is also worth noting that overseas arrivals to Thailand increased 20 per cent in 2006 compared to 2005.

The tourism sector quickly recovered from the 2004 tsunami disaster that affected many beach resorts, including Phuket and Phang-nga.

"In Bangkok, the streets appear slightly quieter than usual and the general mood of the city seems calm," Pornthip said.

"But everyone in the country, especially in the tourism sector, hopes military rule is lifted soon and democracy restored."

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