|Bangkok Post, ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune
April 12, 2010 --The tourism sector has lost more than 35
billion baht due to the intensifying mass anti-government rally and the
bloody confrontations on Saturday between red-shirt protesters and
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), which made the
tourism claim, also predicted the violence could take one per cent from
the 2010 gross domestic product.
"Tourism and service businesses, restaurants, souvenir shops
and shopping malls near the rally sites [at Ratchaprasong intersection
and Phan Fa bridge] are all affected and could lose over 35 billion
baht in total," FTI deputy chairman Thanit Sorat said on Sunday.
He said the GDP could drop a per cent from the government's
forecast. The government predicted that the country's economy would
expand by four to five per cent this year.
"More people from the middle class and businessmen would
likely side with the red-shirt protesters after there were many
casualties following the violent crowd dispersal yesterday," Mr Thanit
He said the loss of lives, regardless of any political
colours, would cause difficulties for the government in dealing with
reactions amid the red sea - Bangkok Post
One of Bangkok's most crowded and active thoroughfares has been turned
into a sea of red since Saturday morning, when tens of thousands of
anti-government protesters crowded into the area in a bid to force
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from office.Luxury hotels such as the Grand Hyatt Erawan and the InterContinental Hotel are now
surrounded by barricades, while the doors to Gaysorn Plaza,
CentralWorld and Siam Paragon remain shut. Many companies with offices
in the area simply gave their employees the day off yesterday because
of the difficulties in reaching the area. Street vendors have also
fled, due to the difficulty in transporting supplies and the
disappearance of normal pedestrian and tourist traffic.
But while business leaders have condemned the protests, views from the
street are more mixed, reflecting the complexities of the political and
social conflicts that have fractured the country for several years.
Some pedestrians, tourists and locals expressed frustration, others
resignation. Almost no one felt fear, at least not in broad daylight.
Tourism operators, who have already suffered years of political
setbacks, expressed frustration at the latest shock to one of the
country's largest industries.
"We have lost many millions of baht over the last three days from the
demonstrations. Our occupancy rate has fallen under 50% compared to 80%
earlier," said Chris Bailey, the senior vice-president for sales and
marketing at Centara Hotels & Resorts, the operator of the Centara Grand at CentralWorld.
Annabelle Daokaew, the public relations manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, asked
why Thais insisted on being so self-destructive.
"We are very worried about the current situation. Earlier this year, we
saw some recovery signs for the business, but now ... we can only try
to explain what happened to our guests and try to take care of them as
much as we can," she said.
"Many of our guests have been quite upset about the situation."
Tourists and locals have also expressed apprehension and frustration
about the protests. Anika Julin, a Swedish national who has lived in
Thailand for six months, said she didn't pretend to understand the
nuances of local politics, but thought mass street rallies were hardly
a constructive way to press for change.
"It's terrible. I think it's a very strange way to express their
opinions like this. Thailand already suffers from economic and traffic
problems, and it will get worse if they don't stop. I just wonder why
they are doing this," she said.
"I believe that many Thais don't really like what the red shirts are
doing right now. I only hope the situation improves. I love Thailand
and I wish all the best to the country and Thai people."
Louis Jean, a French tourist who arrived in Bangkok on Sunday, found
the situation puzzling.
"I had an appointment with a friend to meet at Amarin Plaza, but it was
closed. I didn't know what happened, just that there were many people
wearing red on the roads," he said outside Gaysorn Plaza.
Mr Jean offered a wry grin. "I'm not worried. Demonstrations in France
are normal. I think this protest is peaceful compared to what happens
Across the street, Somporn Pakkaranu, a security guard at the Thao Maha
Phrom shrine outside the Grand Hyatt
Erawan Hotel, said it was mostly business as usual.
"It's an ordinary day. The demonstration hasn't caused any problems,"
he said. "Everything is still fine. Foreign tourists still come to
worship, and I don't think they are worrying too much. I saw one
tourist buy a red shirt."
Mr Somporn, whose political leanings are in sympathy with the red
shirts, said he was confident that the protest would remain peaceful.
"If there is any violence, I think it would come from the government.
If [prime minister] Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolved Parliament, then all
the problems would be solved."
But Ning, a 46-year-old garland stall owner a few metres away, offered
a different opinion. "I have been selling garlands here at the shrine
for over 30 years. The rally has affected business for sure," she said.
She estimates that sales have halved to only 500 baht per day.
He said a House dissolution proposal did not seem to be an
appropriate solution at first but it could now be the answer.
"This is the time for the junior coalition parties to make a
decision whether they will leave or remain with the Democrat-led
government because everyone in the country is looking at them right
now," he said.
He said the political violence had obliterated the country's
investment atmosphere and the tourism industry would take a long time
to recover again.
China's Dragon Air has cancelled all flights to Thailand until
the political situation returns to normal, he added.
To see more of the Bangkok Post, or to subscribe to the
newspaper, go to http://www.bangkokpost.com/.
Copyright (c) 2010, Bangkok Post, Thailand
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For
reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or
847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions
Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.