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Protests hit Xmas tour plans

- Bangkok off festive season circuit, operators face loss

This Christmas, tourists have virtually shelved Bangkok to begin the New Year party with a bang at Phuket, or maybe Pattaya.

Travel and tour operators in the city claimed that people stopped making bookings for the Thai capital, as anti-government demonstrators hosted a mass rally to Royal Thai Government House for the “final battle” on Monday.

Bangkok has witnessed political protests since December 1 with demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. “Bangkok is one of the most popular foreign destinations for tourists of Bihar at this time of the year. However, because of the prevailing anti-government protests, the booking for the Thai capital has completely stopped over the past fortnight. This happened despite the fact that visa-on-arrival is issued in Bangkok and the major tour operators at the Thai capital are giving lucrative offers to woo inbound tourists,” said Shailesh Kumar, the chief executive of city-based Nalanda Travels.

The Suvarnabhumi Airport authorities have made an appeal to fliers to leave four hours ahead of the scheduled departure of a flight.

The local travel operators are making similar apprehensions of tourists getting affected because of the protests. “We are avoiding taking any bookings for Bangkok because there is too much uncertainty. When people go to Bangkok, they visit nearby tourist places like Pattaya as well. However, if there is a huge turmoil and traffic and travel routes are blocked then they might get stuck. Hence, we are advising people to postpone their plans for Bangkok for the time being,” Alok Kumar, the director at city-based Connect India.

Alok claimed that most tourists from Patna and other parts of the state fly to Bangkok via Calcutta. “The air travel time from Calcutta is around 2 hours 20 minutes, whereas the same from Delhi is around four-and-a-half hours. Flying via Calcutta is also cheaper as it costs around Rs 14,000-15,000 while the same via Delhi is around Rs 17,000-18,000,” he said.

The country banks on tourism for much of its revenue and its islands, white-sand beaches, mountains and other attractions attract lakhs of people every year, many of them from eastern India. The Global Destination Cities Index declared the Thai capital as world’s most popular tourist destination with footfall expected to be around 1.60 crores by the end of this year.

A few tour operators said political unrest is not new to Bangkok but it has hardly affected the tourists. “Though the protesters would carry out demonstrations but they never attack any tourist. We are sending two groups on December 13 and 14,” said Upendra Nath Mishra, chief executive officer, Jatak Travels.

If you are having to cancel your Bangkok trip, where else would you like to spend your Christmas holiday? Tell