Thursday, September 25, 2008

Local tourists cancel Thailand tours over political unrest

Local tourists have either delayed or canceled their tours to Thailand due to the current political unrest there, just like their reactions in the years of 2006-2007 when chaos there unseated the then Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, tour operators said.

Cao Pham Hang, director of Saigon Petroleum Tour Center, told the Daily on Wednesday that the company had delayed trips for two groups of tourists initially scheduled for departure this week for the neighboring country.

"We are arranging a meeting for a big group of 100 guests in Thailand in October. If the situation in Thailand continues, we may opt for other destinations as alternatives," she said.

She explained that travelers worried not only about the danger there, but also the risks of difficulties to come back home because some airports might be closed like what happened at the Phuket International Airport late last week.

At V.Y.C Travel, a group of tourists has also delayed a trip scheduled for September 9 to 16, but without making any new bookings, said the tour operator's director.

"Some weeks before, tourists don't care much about the situation because they've seen it like the last unrest but the situation prolonged so the guests have delayed the tour," said Le Hong Phong, director of V.Y.C Travel.

He however said that the situation in Thailand was still safe for tourists, as reported by a group of guests sent by the company to the country. V.Y.C has a group of 32 tourists joining the Bangkok-Pattaya tour, and these travelers reported that the situation there was calm, Phong said, adding the visitors yesterday came back to HCMC.

At Fiditourist, however, few cancellations are reported.

Nguyen Thanh Hai, head of the outbound department of Fiditourist, said while corporate guests were reconsidering their departure times, individual tourists were still setting off as usual. At the company, two groups of seat-in-coach tourists yesterday started the Bangkok-Pattaya trip.

However, preventive measures are also taken, said a Fiditourist executive.

"We will not take tourists to dangerous points in Bangkok. We are waiting for travel advisories, and if the situation turns dangerous we will stop taking tourists there," said Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, public relations executive of Fiditourist.

Asked about the extent of trip cancellations, the general tourism division under the HCMC's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the exact figure would only come out in the next two days, as the division is monitoring the situation. No warnings have been issued to local tourists over the danger in Thailand.

However, the division reported that due to the economic slowdown and the political unrest, the total number of local travelers to Thailand since January to mid-August via Tan Son Nhat Airport was lower than the same period of last year. The number was at nearly 26,000 people, down 30% year-on-year.

In a talk with VnExpress, Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Le Dung said security in Thailand was still normal, and "there is no need now to warn locals against traveling to Thailand."

Last year, around 260,000 Vietnamese travelers have visited Thailand, and this country has expected arrivals from Vietnam this year to increase by some 15,000.

Thailand's newspaper Bangkok Post on Tuesday reported that tour operators began to see booking cancellations.

"Thai tourism industry was likely to lose revenue during the five-month high season (October to February) if the protests were prolonged," the newspaper quoted Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

Some countries including South Korea, the UK, Canada, Japan and Australia have issued travel advisories on Bangkok's political situation.

(Source: SGT)

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