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Tourism Ministry mulling Thailand travel warning

The Ministry of Tourism is considering issuing an official travel warning to all citizens thinking of travelling to Thailand as the political crisis there continues.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said yesterday that despite no notable decrease in tourist numbers between Cambodia and Thailand having yet resulted from the crisis, the government remains wary of the risks.

“We have not sent out any warning alert for Cambodian tourists who wish to visit Thailand yet. We are monitoring the situation now,” he added.

The Indian Embassy on Friday issued an updated travel advisory warning all citizens to be cautious of their personal safety as Thai anti-government protesters move to occupy central government buildings and as rallies in the capital continue. The unrest has been ongoing for more than six months.

Last week, the UK, Canadian, Singaporean and Australian governments all issued similarly increased warnings regarding travel to Thailand’s capital and border crossings with Malaysia and Cambodia.

But a warning now may not be warranted, with domestic tourist sentiment still “generally” healthy, Sinan Thourn, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said.

Thourn said Cambodian tourists have not been cancelling their travel plans but that he had seen a slight decrease in the number of people choosing to visit Thailand.

“Tour operators who are receiving booking requests for Thailand will [likely] be persuading their clients to go to other countries in the region rather than facing the risk of tourists cancelling,” he said.

Meanwhile, new Ministry of Tourism show a 13 per cent decline in all tourist arrivals from Thailand during the first quarter of 2014 over the same period last year.

With a potential decrease in cross-border tourism looming, Hor Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, said that a possible drop in foreign tourist arrivals due to travellers seeking to avoid Thailand is also a concern.

“Hundreds of tour operators in Thailand are providing affordable tour packages partnered with cheap flights, which include Cambodia and other nearby countries in their route,” Vandy said.

Up to 30 per cent of foreign tourist – predominantly from Europe – arrive in Cambodia via Thailand, he added.

“If tourists choose to avoid Thailand altogether, then they would likely skip Cambodia too,” he said, citing a lack of affordable direct flights to Cambodia from major tourist sources.

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