Thai Tourism: Official Optimism Tempered by Numbers

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“Life goes on” was the key message Thailand’s top tourism official conveyed Wednesday night at a public forum on how the country’s tourism is weathering the death of its longest-reigning monarch, reports Khaosod English.

Visitors weave baskets to be floated in the Chao Phraya River. Source: Khaosod English

Visitors weave baskets to be floated in the Chao Phraya River. Source: Khaosod English

Playing down the impact of His Majesty the Late King’s death on one of the kingdom’s biggest money-makers, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul recounted her visit to a luxury hotel bar where she saw scenes of leisure returning to normal a month after the government declared a ban on public entertainment, forcing the once free-wheeling capital to go quiet.

A bleak counterpoint to Kobkarn’s exuberant assertions are the numbers coming in from the tourism sector.

After King Bhumibol died on Oct. 13 at 88, the military government announced a year of national mourning and a month-long ban on public entertainment. Concerts were canceled, bars closed, advertisements pulled, and musicians were put out of work.

Tourism, which by one estimate generated 20.8 percent of the 2015 GDP, took a direct hit from the shutdown.

Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul, adviser and former head of the Khaosan Road Business Association, said establishments in the famous backpacker district lost up to 70 percent of revenues last month.

“We had zero revenue in entertainment,” he said at the panel discussion.

There’s also been a drop in European arrivals, he said, citing factors such as economic crises in the West and wariness of political trouble in Thailand.

However, like Kobkarn, Sa-gna expects the situation to improve from November onward.

Full story at Khaosod English.

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