Skift Take

We're still not sure what to think of the relatively rosy news out of Thailand. We're sure people are still coming, but we know they're not coming like they used to, and they're going to avoid it for a time even once the situation returns to normal.

International travellers are not yet shunning Thailand in great numbers but rather bypassing Bangkok, the centre of political tensions, and heading directly to other local destinations.

Aviation and travel executives say the numbers of foreign tourists transiting at Bangkok’s two airports — Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang — to popular destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are rising amid intensifying political unrest in the capital.

Suvarnabhumi general manager Rawewan Netrakavesna yesterday confirmed the number of international passengers transiting through the main gateway airport to such destinations is growing.

Meanwhile, international arrivals at other airports such as Phuket and Chiang Mai are surging, driven by flyers bypassing Bangkok or travelling on direct flights to those destinations, she told the Bangkok Post.

James Ramage, the managing director of sales and marketing at Diethelm Travel Group, a Bangkok-based tour operator, yesterday confirmed Bangkok arrivals are down.

Many tourists are skipping the capital and heading directly to other destinations or delaying their visits to see how the political situation develops.

The chief executives of Thai AirAsia (TAA) and Nok Air, Thailand’s two major low-cost carriers, said they are seeing a similar pattern.

“Many of our international passengers who would normally spend time in Bangkok before connecting to other Thai destinations from TAA’s Don Mueang base are not coming into Bangkok but rather transiting to other destinations,” said TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld.

He said TAA’s passenger volume has shown signs of contraction due mainly to Bangkok’s worsening political situation.

“We’re doing all right now but seeing fewer future bookings,” said Mr Tassapon.

Mrs Rawewan said passenger throughput at Suvarnabhumi, which handles the bulk of the country’s air traffic, still registered 6% growth during the recent holiday season compared with a 20% rise in flight slot bookings.

Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin said his airline is still recording high load factors of more than 80%.

Tags: bangkok, politics, thailand, tourism, unrest

Photo credit: Anti-government protesters gather in Bangkok's business district. Damir Sagolj / Reuters