FOLLOWING the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok earlier this week, Asian travellers are cancelling or diverting their Thailand trips over the Lunar New Year period as their own governments roll out travel advisories.
The situation is even more pronounced in Hong Kong, whose government has issued a black alert for travel to Bangkok, indicating citizens should avoid all trips to the city. The travel alert status for the rest of Thailand remains amber.
Travel Industry Council Hong Kong’s executive director, Joseph Tung, said: “We don’t have any tour groups there right now…The Lunar New Year is usually a peak season for the trade with 3,000 pax leaving for Bangkok per day on average. We estimate the loss of about 20,000 heads in total.”
His members plan to resume Bangkok departures after mid-February if the situation improves.
Hong Kong-based Morning Star Travel Service, general manager, Dannia Cheung, commented: “We used to have seven to eight Bangkok tours per day but it had been down to two since Christmas, and now with the black alert, it’s all stopped.
“Frankly, this is worse than the previous political crisis a few years ago as it is happening during the two high seasons – Christmas and the Lunar New Year. Hopefully, everything will be cleared up in March and we can make up for the loss by pushing Easter holidays.”
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of issued a travel advisory a day after Bangkok’s state of emergency was announced. Almost all clients of Malaysian Harmony Tours & Travel have postponed their trips to Bangkok since, said CEO Cooper Huang, who added: “We offered them a full refund.”
Stephen Thomas, managing director of Topaz Travel & Tours in Kuala Lumpur said leisure clients who had made Lunar New Year bookings to Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai are now considering either postponing their trips to Thailand or changing destinations.
“People are fearful,” said Thomas. He said his company has not received any new bookings to Thailand recently.
Sri Lankans travellers are choosing to take their holidays elsewhere. Suresh Mendis, CEO of Classic Travels in Sri Lanka, said travel to Thailand has been at a standstill for the past three to four weeks. “No one is travelling to Thailand, and Malaysia is the next best option.”
Sri Lanka-based VMS Travels & Tours’ CEO, Sasi Ganeshan, said that Thailand is the most popular destination for Sri Lankan travellers, with 3,000 to 4,000 departures to Bangkok weekly.
However GT Jayaseelan, chief marketing officer for SriLankan Airlines, said there has not been a sharp drop in departures to Thailand. “However we see a drop in the Chinese going to Bangkok (from Beijing via Sri Lanka),” he said.
Nalin Jayasundera from Aitken Spence Travels, an inbound operator, said travellers were so far not rescheduling trips to Sri Lanka.
Additional reports from S Puvaneswary and Feizal Samath