Although Thailand’s tourism was the sacred cash cow not to be touched by all sides, the People Power Party has placed it on the critical list. With a 70% drop in arrivals reported in just 10 days after then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej announced a self serving state of Emergency in Bangkok, there is a whole lot of face being lost.
The phrase ‘State of Emergency’ is devastating to tourism. Tourist don’t have the luxury of just strolling about town to see with their own eyes if it is safe or not. They must rely on the media and other sources like blogs and online forums to get a picture. That is true with any other negative that may influence decisions on where to holiday. The price to travel to Thailand as a direct link to the price of oil also encouraged other destinations closer to home.
The 70% number that hit the news Thursday September 11 most certainly put many more Thais who rely on tourism in the anti government camp and joining the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Anything above 35% would be considered painful, but twice that is devastating. In Samak’s economic fallout in Thailand Connecting the Dots first touched on this, however at that time the numbers were not known.
This like so many other problems in Thailand can easily be traced back to one man, and that is the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra hiding in the United Kingdom.
The state of emergency is all about Thaksin, and in classic Thaksin style, he sits comfortably on the sidelines watching this all unfold declaring his innocence in involvement.
There is little new news to add that is not already known about the tourist issue, however there are significant events unfolding in the political arena that evolve around the sacking of Samak and the potential replacement. This is only mentioned here because it will effect tourism. The potential tourist who have changed their plans will not be back this season. The ones yet to decide will do so in the next week or two. The discounts of early travel bookings will fade by the end of the month for many. So for every minute The State of Emergency is in effect, more potential tourists choose other destinations.
The failure to quorum on Friday September 12, to select the next Prime Minister suggests a lot is going on under the radar. Thaksin wants Samak back in power, however there is a lot of disagreement. Many can’t stomach where Thaksin is taking Thailand through Samak and they appear to be getting cold feet.
They see Samak as the problem as he is Thaksin’s puppet. The hardball and use the stick and bat approach Samak is using is backfiring. The radical self serving approach Samak is taking is starting to mirror how Thaksin was acting in the months just prior to the coup. Every time you thought Thaksin hit the bottom of lowness, he proved people wrong by going lower. Thaksin was compared to some evil Thai mythical characters, but in reality Thaksin would make them blush with the things he was doing.
Do not be fooled by the amount of influence Thaksin has in the Prime Minister replacement process. The fact that they have delayed the vote to Wednesday September 17 is no coincident. That is the day the court is due to rule on Thaksin’s criminal case that he fled from. If Thaksin is found guilty, the amount of influence he will have will change. At that point all involved will reevaluate their position and connection with a convicted criminal.
In reflection now both Thailand and the United States can share September 11 as a day of national tragedy with the focus coming back to one man.