Thailand tourism suffers as politics grabs the headlines

thailandAs Thailand’s political crisis rumbles on, the number of foreigners booking trips to the country has plummeted, causing losses the tourist industry can ill-afford.

The state of emergency imposed by the government in the face of fierce political protests was lifted on 14 September, but the political situation still looks gravely uncertain.

But from the tourist’s point-of-view, nothing much has changed on the ground, according to Elizabeth Ravech, Australian wife of the owner of the Krabi tour company Andaman Camp and Cruise.

“We have never had so few bookings approaching the high season,” Ravech says of the Krabi tourist industry. But she goes on to say that the effects of the political crisis have been negligible in Krabi – nearly 500 kilometres south of Bangkok.

In Bangkok, there have been clashes between supporters of the embattled ex-Prime Minister and those who believed he should step down, in adherence to court demands. The House of Representatives voted for a new PM yesterday in a vote that is still proving contentious.

Several dozen Thai protesters were injured during the clashes, and one died – but in a big city like Bangkok, it has always proven easy enough for tourists to keep away from the trouble.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises visitors to Thailand to keep away from large gatherings of people during the period of political uncertainty – good advice according to Elizabeth Ravech. “But in many places outside the capital, for example here in Krabi, there are no big crowds anyway,” she adds.

If anything was going to cause a real nationwide crisis, it would surely be the collapse of the important tourist industry, for which Thailand has been famous for over 30 years. The money and international perspective tourists bring to the economy has been promoting stability and prosperity ever since.

“I just don’t think the foreign press realise the damage they might be doing when they turn a political protest in Bangkok into a doom story about all of Thailand. It’s just not true,” Ravech states, matter-of-factly.

Thai politics will provide rich pickings for squabbling columnists for a long time to come; but most would probably agree that sensible and careful tourists will find Thailand no more dangerous today than it was six or 12 months ago. Just steer clear of politics: surely good advice wherever you go on holiday!