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It’s hard to lure visitors back to a major destination when nobody is quite sure when the ruling military junta is going to have a change of heart.
Hotels and shopping malls in Bangkok are pushing for the lifting of martial law before the high season arrives in the hope that tourists and business travellers will come back to the capital.
Prakit Chinamourphong, an ex-president and adviser to the Thai Hotels Association, said that if the junta ended martial law, the hotel and travel business would quickly return to normal and should jump dramatically during the peak tourism season from October to April.
Bangkok hotels are running only 40-50 per cent full this month, or 10-20 percentage points lower than a year ago. Pattaya hotels are also facing a big drop in guests and are as empty as those in Bangkok. This is much worse than last August.
Occupancy at hotels in Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui is 80 per cent and in Chiang Mai 70 per cent. Properties in all major visitor destinations except Pattaya are busier this month.
“The travel business in Bangkok was hit on May 22 when the military took power as many visitors shifted to the provinces. Many meetings and conferences were relocated to other countries,” Prakit said.
Many hotels in the capital have been struggling over past two months in the wake of the political changeover from democratic to military rule. Especially business travellers now still fear for their security and safety.
Although the Foreign Ministry Affairs is working to restore confidence outside, business organisations are still unsure about planning an event or meeting in the country. However, several large events are proceeding as scheduled.
The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau last week said the number of business travellers this year might be no greater than last year, though revenue might rise.
Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, also called on the junta to normalise the peace and order situation as soon as possible to draw visitors and business back to Thailand.
Hotels and shopping malls in central Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong area are limping because of the disappearance of leisure travellers and businesspeople.
“The political chaos has chased business away from Bangkok, while tourists flocked to the provinces. We have already suffered for more than two months,” he said.
About 4,000 hotel rooms and much meeting space in Ratchaprasong are hurting from a lack of guests. Business travellers account for 15-20 per cent of hotel revenue, while tourists contribute 40 per cent of revenue to shops.
The association called on the government to assure tourists that they would be safe and secure if martial law remained. It also has its own plans to launch major monthly activities to lure tourists and businesspeople back, including a Christmas celebration and a New Year’s countdown party.
It will also construct a skywalk linking Ratchaprasong with shopping complexes in Pratunam.