What hospitality leaders are saying about the Thai coup

Massive protests. Election results nullified. Prime minister(s) deposed. Martial law. Coup. Curfews. These are the types of events that are supposed to turn a country into kryptonite for tourists. But time and again, Thailand’s travel industries have proved resilient in the face of political turmoil. Will the events of the last few days – and accompanying condemnations by western news media – mark a new chapter in what has seemed an ever-growing sector?

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David Keen, founder & CEO, QUO:  “This situation is a paradox. On one hand, over the last week, I’ve not seen a single soldier or any evidence of any kind of upheaval (apart from really serious traffic last night). And now, on the other hand, we have a military government and every foreign country dissing Thailand for the way it operates. Thailand itself is the greatest anomaly. Its history is one of going to the brink and then, almost miraculously, finding a way out. I believe there’s a majority of the leadership who are saying ‘enough’. We have to find a way to change the way the country operates without losing the essence of what is Thailand.”

Peter Henley, president & CEO, Onyx Hospitality Group: “Regrettably I feel that the power of international media is such that the terms ‘martial law and coup d’etat’ will not really be explained. Coverage over the last few days on BBC, CNN, etc, has veered towards a dramatisation of the situation. Given the ‘sound bite’ approach to journalism today, there is little opportunity to present an objective appraisal of the true situation on the ground.”

David Shackleton, COO, Dusit International: “We should have one voice (preferably PATA or Tourism Authority of Thailand) to speak on behalf of the travel industry. I would suggest it is worth having one of these organisations appoint one person to deal with the media/image to centralise our efforts. The message has to be consistent and constant and take a proactive approach with embassies to outline the facts.”

Clarence Tan, COO, InterContinental Hotels Group South East Asia & Resorts: “Oddly enough, I feel safer than before, when we were waiting in anticipation of yet another deadline on May 27…I took the opportunity to walk around the neighbourhoods of Ploenchit, Chitlom and Siam, and it was pretty much business as usual. But hotels, retail, restaurants and bars are quiet, as cautiousness has set in. A Straits Times article in Singapore reported that Singaporeans will continue to travel to Thailand. I believe more will return to the Land of Smiles. However, no smoke without fire. As long as martial law is in place, sadly, most visitors will continue to avoid Thailand.”

Bill Barnett, managing director, C9 Hotelworks: “The real question is: is martial law any worse than the sort of uncertainty we have faced over the past six months? In some ways it’s an improvement, as there is now a degree of certainty and a voice to speak to in terms of who is in charge.”

David Keen: “Ironically, the recent events could speed the recovery of Thailand’s brand image by increasing the country’s credibility. After months of being stuck at a political impasse, it appears this is the beginning of the end (of the political impasse) rather than the end of the beginning. Had martial law never been declared, we may have been stuck in the quagmire of uncertainty for many months to come.”

Anthony Lark, vice president operations and business development, Montara Hospitality, Trisara Phuket: “Brand Bangkok suffers badly, but Brand Phuket to a much lesser degree, as over the years, the island has become much more independent with direct non-stop flights from all over the globe.”

Read the full compilation Thailand’s hospitality leaders discuss the effects of military rule on the country’s tourism industry

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