Thailand Tourism President calls for curfew to be lifted in Phuket
Phuket Gazette – May 26, 2014 | 06:23 PM
PHUKET: The president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), Piyaman Tejapaibul, has petitioned the ruling junta to lift the nightly curfew in Phuket and other tourist hotspots throughout the country.
Ms Piyaman told the Phuket Gazette today that she filed her request with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) at a meeting yesterday.
“I asked for General Prayuth Chan-ocha to consider lifting the curfew in some tourism areas, specifically Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Pattaya,” Ms Piyaman said.
“The NCPO accepted my proposal for consideration. However, I was informed that the army must be sure about any changes they make before taking any action.”
Ms Piyaman said that she hoped the NCPO would lift the curfew in tourist destinations as soon as possible.
“Tourism was hit hard before the coup due to the long-running street protests,” she said.
“Although it is too early to tell how many cancellations there have been because of the coup, we have to admit that it is affecting tourists’ confidence.”
TCT Vice President Pornthip Hirunkate pointed out that more than 50 nations had issued travel warnings urging their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Thailand.
“Among these, Hong Kong raised the warning to the top level,” Ms Pornthip told The Nation. “Furthermore, tourists from long-haul markets, including the US and Canada, as well as the UK and other European countries, have postponed their trips.”
Many business and leisure tourists reportedly also cancelled trips to Thailand last week.
Ms Piyaman pointed out that the past six months of political protests in the capital had stunted tourism growth for the year.
“The number of tourist arrivals during the first quarter this year dropped by 5.85% compared with last year, and the second quarter [which ends June 30] is already 8.75% behind last year,” she noted.
Considering the damage already done to the number of tourist arrivals, Ms Piyaman said the TCT supported the intervention by the military.
“We believe that it was better that the military stepped in than to let the protests go on forever. They had already gone on for far too long,” she said.
The TCT believes that the sector could record growth this year if a new government is installed quickly, and confidence in Thailand as a safe destination returns.
The council said next month’s Thailand Travel Mart in Bangkok was a chance for the industry to shine.
According to Ms Pornthip, tourism has suffered since the last coup in 2006 while other political issues, including the airport shutdown and street protests, have also had an impact, as did the severe floods in 2011. Despite that, the number of arrivals had continued to grow.
In 2006, Thailand received 13.8 million tourists. By 2013, the number of visitors had risen to 26.7 million, including an increase of 19.6% in the number of arrivals in that year alone.
“In Bangkok, the streets appear slightly quieter than usual and the general mood of the city seems calm,” Ms Pornthip said.
“But everyone in the country, especially in the tourism sector, hopes military rule is lifted soon and democracy restored.”
To counter the fall in the tourism arrivals, Ms Piyaman called on all media agencies to promote Thailand – by telling the truth.
“All we need to do to regain tourists’ confidence is to tell them exactly what is happening in Thailand and where tourists can travel to safely,” she explained.
“Let them know that nearly everyone is going about their lives normally. This is especially true in Phuket, where you can see that – except the curfew – there has been no impact.”
The curfew bans all unsanctioned travel on the streets from 10pm to 5am.
Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut, at a briefing of governors and police chiefs at the Royal Thai Army Fourth Area Command in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, on Friday requested that Phuket be given a flexible curfew as it is a tourist destination.
That request followed Weerawit Kurasombat, president of the Patong Entertainment Business Association, warning that the curfew was crippling Patong’s throbbing nightlife industry.
“If this curfew continues, it will be even worse than the tsunami. At least tourists could understand the tsunami was a natural disaster,” he said
However, the curfew looks set to stay until further notice.
Gen Prayuth, after receiving royal endorsement to lead the NCPO this morning, vowed to ease the “drastic measures” when the situation improved, but said the curfew was still needed.
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