Protests, border disputes and a global market crisis have taken their toll on the Land of Smiles, prompting a new PR blitz to boost numbers
PRICE OF PROTEST
A recent study by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce suggested that the political turmoil in Thailand is likely to cause losses of as much as 62 billion baht (US$1.8 billion) if it lasts until the end of October, as tourist stay away from the Kingdom.
CAMBODIAN travel agents and journalists were part of a delegation invited last week to Thailand as officials there launched a new initiative to try to resurrect a foundering tourism sector struck down by domestic political upheaval and global market turmoil that are keeping visitors at home.
Authorities from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which organised the "Visit Amazing Thailand Year 2009" trip for some 1,050 delegates from 54 countries, acknowledged that ongoing border tensions between Cambodia and Thailand had driven tourist figures down.
Foreign ministers from both countries met Monday to try and resolve the military standoff over disputed territory, which has dragged on since July and erupted earlier this month in gunfire between Cambodian and Thai soldiers.
"I would like to send the message to the Thai government to solve this problem as soon as possible," said Pichai Raktasinha, director of the Ho Chi Minh City office of TAT.
"We welcome Cambodian people as tourists in Thailand in the same way Cambodian people welcome Thai people in Cambodia," Pichai said, adding that the Bangkok government has been trying to boost the number of tourists traveling to Thailand by "offering ... opportunities to experience Thailand's destinations, products and services".
as tourists in thailand.”
Ang Kim Eang, treasurer of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents and president of the Great Angkor Tours Co, said that the decrease in the number of tourists visiting Thailand was unfortunate after spending six days in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
"Tourism in Thailand has decreased mainly because of the border conflicts in the [Thai] south, internal conflicts in the government, the high price of gasoline and the standoff between Thai and Cambodian soldiers," he said.
"TAT invited tour operators and the press to Thailand to show them that major tourist destinations in the country are still safe," he said.
According to the director of the Tourism Crisis Management Center, Apichart Sankary, foreign tourist numbers visiting Thailand this year will fall short of the earlier estimate of 15.48 million. "We expect to attract only 14.5 to 14.6 million visitors this year."