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Phuket beats back turmoil

Phuket is in, Bangkok almost out.

For the leisure holidaymakers bound for Thailand, one of the most popular tourism destinations in Southeast Asia, the state of 60-day emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces has made matters worse since Wednesday. The southern Thailand is relatively peaceful with a few options like Phuket and other cities in the Malay peninsula attracting visitors.

The period between January and March is considered peak season for both inbound and outbound tourist flow between the Thai capital and Bihar.

Several tour operators in Patna claimed that looking at the violent protests in Bangkok, neither would anyone want to go there for holidays nor would they advise people for the same. “In spite of protests on the Bangkok streets in the past couple of months, I had sent many groups till December. But the emergency is going to affect the Bangkok-bound tourists now. We expect that there would be a decline of about 50 per cent in the tourist flow to the Thai capital over the next two months,” said Upendra Nath Mishra, chief executive officer of Patna-based Jatak Travels.

Bangkok has witnessed political protests since December 1 with demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Thai government on Tuesday declared the emergency after two explosions rocked the largely peaceful anti-government protests on Friday and Sunday. The decree, which covers Bangkok and surrounding provinces, allows security agencies to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five persons and declare areas off-limits.

Alok Kumar, director of city-based Connect India, said: “We have been getting hardly any enquiry for Bangkok over the past two months. People were avoiding Bangkok and Pattaya and preferring to go to Phuket, which is comparatively peaceful.”

However, no airline operates direct flight to Phuket. Tourists have to go through Singapore or Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

A tourist walks past autorickshaws on a busy street in Thailand earlier this month. (Reuters)

Tour operators in Bodhgaya also claimed that the arrival of Buddhist tourists from Bangkok has started declining from Tuesday. “Air India and Thai Airways operate daily connecting flights between Bangkok and Gaya. However, the number of pilgrims and tourists coming from these flights to Gaya airport seems to have suddenly declined from yesterday. Looking at the situation of civic unrest in the Thai capital, I think there would be a decline of around 50 per cent of the tourists from Bangkok coming to Bodhgaya,” said Joginder Singh, manager, Top Travel and Tour Private Ltd, Bodhgaya.

Several tour operators have also claimed that a clear picture on the impact of the emergency in the Thai capital would come up only after a week.

“The protests have been going on for a long time but the protesters have never targeted tourists. Thus, how much this declaration of emergency is going to affect the travel and tourism sector cannot be said as of now. We would still watch for a couple of days and the advisory from Tourism Authority of Thailand to come up at a conclusion,” said Shailesh Kumar, the chief executive of city-based Nalanda Travels.

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.

Tour operators based in Delhi also made similar claims.

“We have several Bangkok-bound bookings for February but we have still not got any communication regarding cancellation by the tourists. A clear picture on the impact of the declaration of emergency would come only after two to three days, when people would start reacting,” said Anuj Kumar, managing director, Magadh Travels and Tours Private Ltd., New Delhi.

A Thailand Tourism Advice from British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued on Tuesday stated: “Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Some of these have been violent, including the use of firearms, and there have been casualties and deaths. The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected.”


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