Although tourism has not been affected by the smog in Bangkok, travel industry players believe that unless a long-term solution is put forth, it is only a matter of time before pollution takes its toll.
Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of Thai Hotels Association (THA), told TTG Asia that there have been enquiries from concerned travellers, but none so far have cancelled their hotel reservations.
She did not think that ongoing air pollution was so serious that it would affect tourism, although the problem is particularly bad for Bangkok as particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter reaching hazardous levels in recent weeks.
The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) similarly reported that no cancellations were recorded from tourists with visits planned up until March, including Chinese tourists expected to arrive in Thailand during the Lunar New Year period. The association expects as many as 300,000 visitors who are likely to spend about 10 billion baht.
However, ATTA vice president Mingkwan Metmowlee remarked that unless the government has clear and effective solutions to tackle the hazardous dust particles, there could be impact on foreign tourists’ decision to visit from April onwards. This is particularly the case of travellers who tend to make last-minute bookings to Thailand, such as those in South-east Asia.
Surawat Akarawaramat, managing director of KTK Tour Enterprise, urged the government to elaborate on the true causes of the air pollution and issue clear measures to handle the situation.
According to Surawat, there had been misleading reports of the smog in the news. If the relevant organisations provided facts, the amount of false information circulating would drop, he said.
Both Surawat and THA’s Supawan cautioned about the potential impact that reports on pollution and misinformation could have on tourism.
Supawan added that air pollution is a concern not just for the industry, but for general public health. To address this would be an exercise in social responsibility, requiring effort from not only the government but from all parties.
Along with efforts to tackle the smog problem, Surawat pointed out that tourist destinations in other Thai provinces should also be promoted.
Mingkwan suggested for there to be better air pollution control at construction sites and requirements for minimum number of passengers in each vehicle entering tourist-crowded zones. Such measures would show that the government was not turning a blind eye to air pollution, Mingkwan said.