Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tourist operators seek help

The tourism sector wants action by the government to rehabilitate the battered industry early next year to save local entrepreneurs from collapse.

Thai Hotels Association president Prakit Shinamornpong said Thai tourism could take more than six months to recover from the "very serious" impact of the recent airport seizure by protesters.

"The week-long forced closure of the two Bangkok airports has devastated confidence among international tourists," he said yesterday.

As of Sunday, the occupancy rate of hotels in Bangkok was only 20-25%, compared with 60% in the same period last year, and the situation of some five-star hotels is far more severe.

New Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his economic team are scheduled today to meet tourism operators to discuss how to assist the industry.

Thailand may lose 100 billion baht in revenue this peak season due to the airport shutdown. About 2.5 million fewer tourists than previously forecast are expected to arrive during this quarter and the next one, said Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. "This is a very difficult time for us as the airport closure happened in our peak season," she said.

"The impact will not be limited to tourism-related industries, but other food and service industries and also the whole economy will feel the pain."

Arrivals next year may drop to between 11 million and 12 million, below the agency's target of 16 million, she said.

The TAT will soon propose an industry recovery programme including 20 billion baht in soft loans for small operators as well as a 1.9-billion-baht promotional budget for both Thailand and overseas.

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