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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Thai tourism proves bomb blast resilient

The New Year bombings in Bangkok did little to deter Middle East tourists from visiting the Thai capital, according to the travel trade.

The New Year bombings in Bangkok did little to deter Middle East tourists from visiting the Thai capital, according to the travel trade.

“It made no difference whatsoever; firstly, I think press reports were overshadowed by the Saddam Hussein story, and secondly, the bombings were politically motivated, rather than a terrorist attack,” explained Norman Allin, director of leisure travel for Thailand at Bangkok-based Pacific World, the DMC for Etihad Holidays and Gulf Air Holidays.

“We had no cancellations and the summer is shaping up to be a busy one. We are sourcing more properties to suit Middle East clients, but we are also focusing on getting them out of Bangkok to other areas of Thailand.”

Hossein Hosseini, director of international affairs & route development for Iranian airline, Mahan Air, said load factors for Bangkok, one of the carrier’s most successful routes, were 90% plus over Christmas, New Year, Eid, and into January.

“It hasn’t dropped at all and some days, we are full. We saw an 18% increase in traffic on the Bangkok route last year,” he said.

Eight explosions rocked Bangkok on December 31, one of which exploded in a phone box outside the Arnoma Hotel. There were three fatalities and nine tourists were injured.

As a result, international travel to Bangkok, particularly corporate business, softened in the first week of January according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). Occupancy rates in the Thai capital dropped from 82% on New Year’s Day to 68% on January 2, the Deloitte HotelBenchmark Survey revealed. They remained in the 60-70% range for the rest of the week. Compared to the same week in 2006, occupancies were down 10%.

Few tour operators reported cancellations, but some witnessed slower bookings, estimating a drop in business by between 5 and 10% in the first two weeks of the year.

In defiance, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, Dr. Suwit Yodmanee, confirmed the government’s national targets for 2007 of 14.8 million foreign tourists and 82 million Thai tourists, with earnings of 547 billion baht (US $15.5 billion) and 378 billion baht ($10.74 billion), respectively. He pinpointed sea, sand, diving, golf, seafood and health services as key attractions for investment and promotion in 2007: “To support the growth of tourism, we must consider upgrading tourism resources according to ‘star rating’ standards, but at the same time use the ‘green leaf’ standard to protect the environment,” he said.

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