The Songkran festival period could be a quieter one this year, as the number of holidaymakers visiting the country during the Thai New Year celebrations is expected to fall by 20-40 per cent as compared with last year, as concerns rise about new political tensions.
Concerns have arisen due to the increased anti-government protests staged by the “Red Shirts” faction, including a major rally scheduled in the period leading up to the holiday.
Tourism groups are expecting foreign visitor numbers to drop off by as much as 40 per cent from 2008, and domestic tourists by 20-30 per cent. What this would mean is that Songkran may only generate around Bt30 billion in revenues, which is considerably less than the Bt50 billion projected earlier.
The downturn during Songkran would put even greater pressure on Thailand as it attempts to reach its target of Bt500 billion in tourism revenue this year.
“Political chaos in Thailand is becoming the main factor in both inbound and domestic tourism. Even tourists familiar with Thailand, such as those from Singapore and Hong Kong, are now waiting for the situation to clear up,” said Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, as reported in The Nation.
The association executive suggested that many tourists were delaying booking their holiday until the mass rally in Bangkok has ended. In Chiang Mai, tourists have been reported to be urgently consulting travel agents for tours outside the provincial capital, as they fear confrontations stemming from the political turbulence.