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Holidays take a hit in Thai coup

- Rush to return or cancel planned trips

Calcuttan Sanjay Chaubey was at a food festival in Bangkok on Thursday afternoon when he saw news of the military coup in Thailand being flashed on a giant screen at the venue.

Chaubey, who is on a business trip, promptly boarded a sky train for the one-and-a-half-hour journey back to his hotel. Along the way, he noticed army personnel all over and the streets “becoming deserted very fast”.

Wife Sulochona called soon after to find out whether he was safe. Chaubey, 53, is booked on a return flight to Calcutta on Sunday but he doesn’t want to hang around that long. Till late on Thursday, he was trying to reschedule his return to Friday morning. “I will be stuck here if the airport shuts down, as had happened on earlier occasions,” he said over phone.

Chaubey, who reached Bangkok on May 19, is staying in a hotel in Sukhumvit.

Thailand’s army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, on Thursday afternoon seized control of the government in a coup, two days after he had declared martial law.

Thailand is among the more popular tourist destinations for Indians, logging around 10 lakh visitors from the country last year. Travel industry sources said about 800 passengers take flights to Bangkok from the city every day for business and leisure.

The sources said political turmoil and demonstrations in Bangkok had already taken their toll on the flow of tourists from Calcutta. “We have been receiving phone calls from people who have booked packages for the coming week. Some of them have already cancelled while others are putting their plans on hold,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India.

Ophthalmologist Vivek Verma had planned a holiday to Bangkok and other parts of Thailand next week with wife Mukta and 18-year-old daughter Shivani. “I was in the process of finalising the bookings but once I heard about the coup today, I called my travel agent and called it off. We will choose an alternative destination on Friday,” said Verma, a resident of Park Street.

Thai tourism officials said the two airports in Bangkok—Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang— were operational. “All airports in Thailand remain open, and air passengers with arrival and departure flights scheduled during the curfew can travel to and from the airports at any time as usual. However, tourists with arrival and departure flights during the curfew are advised to prepare all travel documents when travelling to and from the airports,” the tourism department said.

Airlines flying Bangkok from Calcutta said all flights were on schedule. “Both our flights are on. Unless there is an advisory from the Thai government, we will continue to operate these flights,” an IndiGo official said.

Thai Airways and Bhutan Airlines operate daily flights too.

Earlier this year, Jet Airways and AirAsia withdrew its flights between Calcutta and Bangkok. Jet had cited “low yield” as the reason for doing so.