Friday, December 12, 2008

Thailand No Longer the Land of Smiles

December 13th, 2008 by King Kong Janoi Print This Post/Page

Thai Tourism (web)_1.JPGThailand tourism slogan is the “Land of Smiles”.

But anti-government protests lead by the People’s Alliance for Democracy or PAD have hit the travel industry hard.

The government said the protestor’s closure of the two major airport for eight days have cost over five billon US dollars.

King Kong Janoi reports of the lasting damage the political stand-off is having on the Thai tourism industry.

For the People’s Alliance for Democracy the airport closure was a victory.

“What we are fighting for is what we say is new politic that people have equal chance to get knowledge and not only rich people have a chance in their life.”

But for the three hundred thousand foreign tourists caught up in their political protest it was the holiday from hell.

“Now there is a few flight and very very expensive and only business class left.”

“It is going to cost us financial problems.”

“I’ve been absent more than nine days in that have been great massive problem there that I am really worry about.”

The Thai government desperately tried to save their tourist industry by providing free health care to the stranded visitors.

In a corner of the airport nurse Araya Netrakom hands out medicine to a man suffering from a headache.

“We come to support to take care of their health. We give something they need like a drink, food something. We try to support all of the tourists who have problem here. We want to make them happy after they’re leaving Thailand. I hope they still want to come back to Thailand.”

But it’s not going to be as easy as that. Richie Lim from Malaysia says he will not return soon.

“People start look at other country like Singapore so far most are politically stable and safe. So it is not good for Thailand and Thailand have to build back that image and stablize the politics.”

But political stability is a long way off. The country is hopelessly divided.

The PAD has vowed to return to the streets if the next government is too close to former Prime Minister Thaksin.

PAD member Art Dejavu says he will fight until death.

“They might order to kill us whatever but if thousand of us died the system will change that is gonna to be cool. I am sure that our people most of us just sit and just waiting for they kill us. We wait for that because if can’t win, we better died.”

For the Thai tourism industry it’s an ongoing nightmare. Due to the airport closure only half the normal amount of tourists are expected to come next year.

It’s already having an impact.

I am here at the popular night market in Bangkok. Usually it’s a very busy place filed with tourists buying traditional Thai products.

But today as you can hear it’s very quite. Shop owners are stilling waiting in empty shops.

One of them is Nyien Chan who sells handicrafts.

“I am not selling anything at the moment because there are no tourists due to the tourist situation. I am going to close my shop next month. Some of my friend’s shops have already closed. We can’t offer the wages of the staff and the building rent.”

Other people are more hopeful. Surasak Phomafuang is a travel agent in Central Bangkok.

“We will be success again because Thailand is very popular destination for tourists. I think we will be a success again in near future.”

But Louis Lozada from Australia says the airport closure is going to hang over Thailand’s tourism industry for a long time.

“In the future, I think it take quite a bit of time before come back because it has been such as experience of desperation and worry. So we will not be coming back in a hurry.”

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