Major tourism associations in Thailand are reporting that the rate of hotel occupancy by foreign visitors at Chiang Mai hotels and resorts over the recent Songkran festival fell from the 2008 level of 90-95 per cent to 40-45 per cent this year.
The main reasons cited for the disastrous drop in advance bookings were political chaos and the looming threat of violent protests over the Songkran holiday period.
Chiang Mai has long been regarded as the main destination during Songkran for both domestic and foreign tourists. Visitors who were already in the city before the holiday began booking travel to other areas because of concerns over violence.
Bangkok travel agents handling Chiang Mai bookings for foreign tourists were reported to be requiring a 40 per cent non-refundable deposit, anticipating cancellations in the event of riots in Chiang Mai.
The city has already felt the impact of the global economic downturn, the siege of Suvarnabhumi Airport late last year and recent violent protests in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Recently, the group Rak Chiang Mai 51 forced the cancellation of the city’s Gay Pride Parade.
These events, combined with exceptionally high pollution levels that have gained international attention, have led to a 25 per cent drop in visitors in recent months.