Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thai Government: Foreigners can't drink here (on religious holidays)

Alcohol ban on religious holidays

Published on July 1, 2009

The government was dealing another severe blow to the already-battered tourism and entertainment industry by suddenly banning booze during Buddhist holidays next week, business leaders complained yesterday.

"This is the same old issue - the government rising up to destroy tourism. This does not parallel its tourism policy of increasing the number of visitors coming into the country," said Thai Hotels Association (THA) president Prakit Chinamourphong.

Enforcement of the decree would hurt tourism venues, especially clubs and restaurants located in hotels, as well as general tourist attractions.

"How can tourists can enjoy their holiday in Thailand without drinking? Like Phuket or Pattaya, they're coming for beaches and fun. They like to have beers and some drinks on the beach. If we ask them not to do so, they won't be happy," Prakit said.

The government should have communicated the order well in advance to foreign tourists, so they could plan their activities and celebrations better while staying in the country.

"I think it's good for locals to stop drinking during that time, but tourists will be upset," Prakit said.

Visitors understand the prohibition on election days but cannot accept it for occasions like this, he said.

Hotel operators are expected to suffer even more from the latest move after getting hit by the global economic crisis and type-A (H1N1) influenza, he said.

The industry is expected to be hurt even more by the suspension of alcohol sales.

A source from the Federation on Alcohol Control of Thailand said the order for alcohol-free religious holidays would be a great setback for local tourism and related businesses, such as hotels, pubs and restaurants.

"With the ban, all tourist destinations, including Koh Samui, Phuket and Pattaya, will be hurt. All pubs and beer bars will have to close, because they cannot sell any alcohol on those days," the source said.

"It will disappoint foreign tourists visiting Thailand, as drinking alcohol, such as wine and beer, is part of their everyday routine. They may switch to other countries next time. The government should take this sensitive issue seriously if they want to promote tourism as one of the key sectors bringing revenue into the country to stimulate the economy."

Chatchai Wiratyosin, marketing manager of Singha Corp, brewer and distributor of Singha and Leo beers, said his company could live with the government's decision to suspend alcohol sales on special religious holidays.

"We don't think the measure will make a significant impact on the sale of alcoholic beverages, because people normally drink less on religious holidays anyway," he said.

But he still wonders why the government must always issue immediate measures to ban the sale and drinking of alcohol instead of trying other means, such as educational campaigns to promote higher morals among local youths regarding responsible drinking.

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