Thai political crisis threatens nearly billion-dollar tourism loss

Other News Materials 9 September 2008 09:46 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Thailand's ongoing political crisis could lose the kingdom up to 32 billion baht (928 million dollars) in forfeited tourism revenues if the chaos is prolonged, media reports said Tuesday.

Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Pornsiri Manoharn has warned that up to 840,000 foreign tourists would cancel their trips to Thailand in the upcoming peak season if the country's political standoff continues to the end of the year, The Nation newspaper reported.

"The worst-case scenario will hit this year's high season, resulting in the loss of about 840,000 tourists," she said.

In monetary terms, the loss would amount to 32 billion baht, based on calculations that tourists spend an average of 38,000 baht per visit.

Under the best-case scenario, in which Thailand's political crisis ends this week, the country still stands to lose about 9.4 billion baht from the last two weeks of turmoil.

Twenty-three countries had issued travel warnings on Thailand as of Monday, leading to a dramatic decline in arrivals, especially from neighbouring Asian nations.

On September 2, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in Bangkok after a pre-dawn street battle between pro-government and anti-government groups left one person dead and 43 injured.

The fight was prompted by efforts by pro-government thugs to force thousands of followers of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) out of Government House, which they have occupied since August 26.

The PAD is calling for Samak's resignation and has vowed to hold the seat of government hostage until he does so.

Although the imposition of a state of emergency has outlawed the PAD's occupation of Government House and any other political gathering of more than five people in the Thai capital, it has failed to end the standoff because the military has refused to use force to oust the protestors.

Arrivals at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok's international airport, fell 25 per cent from September 1 to 4.

Tourism is a major money spinner for Thailand. Last year, the kingdom earned 199 billion baht from tourism.