CHIANG MAI, Thailand: Thailand’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the ongoing political unrest in the kingdom, but efforts to woo visitors back are in full swing.
Tourism makes up just 6.5 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, but welcoming visitors is what the kingdom is best known for.
Protests by the “red shirts” and violence in Bangkok earlier this year had a big impact on cities like Chiang Mai, where tourism accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the local economy.
Occupancy rates at local hotels dropped sharply, reaching a low of 10 per cent at times.
Sarawut Saetiao, the president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said: “If we compare this year’s first quarter to last year’s, this year has been better. But in the second quarter, we suffered badly. Cancellation rates were very high, especially from foreign tourists. The financial loss in Chiang Mai was over US$300 million.”
Mass cancellations are extremely damaging for the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector.