Latest protests in Bangkok frightened visitors to the country known for its white sands and smile and bettered its tourism industry. Those planning to come to the Thai capital for its culture, spicy food, massage, and nightlife have been put off by scenes of protesters throwing bottles of their own blood to government office presented on television worldwide. The Red Shirts clad supporting the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are trying to force a snap reelection.
Whilst so far the rally has been rather peaceful, people has not forget horrible incident last year when Red Shirts rally turned to be violent, only a few months after the rival Yellow Shirts blockaded the international airport and left tens of thousands visitors stranded for days.
Surapol Sritrakul, president of Association of Thai Travel Agents, said that the latest circumstance has led to mass cancellations especially in key Asian markets. The whole tourism figures are estimated to decrease at approximately 20-30 percent in annual average. Thai travel agents’ representative Surapol Sritrakul said the crimson protests had led to many tour cancellations, particularly in key Asian markets, estimating that tourism figures were down 20-30 per cent on the yearly average.
“Blood is scary. Many people think the protests could be violent. They think the blood could come from killing. It’s not a good image for Thailand,” he said as reported by Australian daily, Sydney Morning Herald. Red Shirts’ pouring their own blood action was the most bizarre part of political drama in Thailand since the a military coup threw Thaksin away from his power.
Tourism authority of Thailand confirmed that 38 countries has issued travel warnings for Bangkok related to the rallies which have been started last week.
Protests have been taken streets repeatedly resulting insecurity feeling and gradually diminished Thailand’s reputation as land of a thousand smiles. Back in 2008, after months sitting at government offices, the Yellow Shirts blockaded the two airports of Bangkok for nine days and stranded thousands of foreign visitors. Last April the Red Shirts mostly coming from the poor parts of the country blew riots in Bangkok and left injuries and two deaths, and force an early closure of an important Asian summit.
“The tolerance of tourists is decreasing. They worry they will be blocked again, that they will face problems. It is always a matter of security. I think it’s really negative in the long term,” said a hotelier who prefer to remain unnamed. Songkran, water festival to celebrate Thai new year which takes place in April normally attracts thousands of tourists. But this year bookings for the period are significantly low. “We have lost 25 million baht since March 11, but what worries me are the bookings for April, things are quiet,” he continued .
Thai tourism media columnist, Bill Barnett, said that the stunning pictures of Thailand’s palm fringed beaches could not rival the frightening unrest. Tourists aviod Bangkok and prefer to reroute their flights to the southern tropical island of Phuket where they can still enjoy the sun quietly and peacefully.
“In the long term there will be damage. Tourist figures usually follow a cyclical pattern but here it’s a lot more volatile – instead of peaks and valleys it looks like an ECG machine after a heart attack”, Bernett said. Other than political turmoils Thailand tourism has been consecutively attacked by various issues including health fears over the 2003 SARS outbreak and safety concerns after tsunami in 2004 that killed 5,395 in Thailand.