|By Boonsong Kositchotethana, Bangkok
Post, ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Sep. 21, 2006 - Thailand's coup d'e'tat has had a limited impact on the travel and tourism industries so far, with most operations continuing as usual.
The most serious effects were seen in cancellations of rooms and function facilities at Bangkok hotels, as well as the cancellation of three Emirates flights through Bangkok on Tuesday night.
Central Hotels & Resorts, Grand Diamond, Minor International and Wired Destinations all reported cancellations, while Chaophya Park Hotel & Resorts saw its occupancy dropping from 74 percent to 51 percent and many government functions were cancelled.
Airlines including Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia continued to maintain services as usual with no notable cancellations, although they did receive many telephone inquiries about the status of flights.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association said yesterday that the impact of the coup on Thailand's tourism sector had so far been minimal and that visitors should definitely continue with plans to visit the country.
Jeffrey Leong, executive vice-president for corporate planning at the property consultancy CB Richard Ellis, said, "There was some apprehension among guests last [Tuesday] night after news reports and rumours of road closures in Bangkok. However, last night's peaceful coup was a relief and there is a sense of heightened awareness this [Wednesday] morning and an expectation that the transition will remain peaceful in the days ahead."
Chetsada Techprasertporn, the general manager of the Bangkok-based Grand Diamond Suites Hotel, was keen to reassure the global travel industry that "nothing untoward has happened, especially in terms of tourists visiting Thailand".
Andrew Wood, the general manager of Chaophya Park Hotel & Resorts, said the situation was "nothing as bad as the 1991 coup when looting caused a mass exodus and occupancies plummeted across town. This time around, everyone is remaining calm and most guests, both local and from overseas, understand very well the political background of current events. It is my best guess that we will be back to almost 'business as normal' in a matter of weeks," he added.
The impact on air travel and tourism appeared to have been slight due to the lack of local disturbances, limiting external concern, according to Peter Harbison, the executive chairman of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
It also appeared that foreign governments, some of which might have over-reacted in the past, had not issued excessive risk warnings to their nationals, he told the Bangkok Post yesterday.
The German carrier Lufthansa and German tour operators reported no disruptions, but said they were closely observing the situation.
Thailand is a popular tourist destination for Germans and most visitors fly from Frankfurt, Duesseldorf or Munich to Bangkok before catching connecting flights to southern resorts such as Phuket and Samui.
"We are keeping an eye on what is happening, but for the moment we have no indication that we need to take any special measures," a Lufthansa spokesman said.
Thai Airways yesterday confirmed that its operations were continuing as normal for both domestic and international flights, numbering around 200 per day.
Soonthorn Suree, Emirates' manager for Southeast Asia, said the Dubai-based international airline yesterday resumed full flight operations through Bangkok, with a daily frequency of up to six flights depending on the day.
"We cancelled three flights through Bangkok as a security precaution. As the political situation was becoming normal, we decided to restore our flights," said an Emirates executive. He added that the carrier had not detected any abnormal cancellations and that the cabin factor was still at around 80 percent.
Tassaporn Bijleveld, a chief executive of the budget carrier Thai AirAsia, yesterday reported that "99 percent" of its passengers continued with flights from Bangkok International Airport.
In spite of the political situation, Bangkok Airways vice-president M.L. Nandhika Varavarn yesterday reaffirmed that the airline would today start to operate limited commercial flights through Suvarnabhumi Airport.
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