BY EMMA GARDINER
Last Wednesday Thailand declared martial law as red-shirt backed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was unseated by a decision in the constitutional court. The situation has now been upgraded to a military coup.
Shinawatra has been accused of nepotism and also backing a flawed scheme to inflate the price of rice. It is likely that she will be banned from politics for five years.
The news of the declaration has been devastating for Thailand’s MICE business, with many PCOs saying they will not only cancel bookings into the destination but will also avoid booking further business until things settle down considerably.
Cievents Director Supplier Relations Caroline Gair said, “It is such an awful situation that we are now faced with in Thailand. Unfortunately, no matter how this plays out, it will impact current and potential business to this destination. Based on global events of the past, clients are not prepared to take the risk and you can’t blame them.
“It is an uncertain situation and the quicker it is resolved the better… we are huge advocates of Thailand as a destination and want to get back to supporting our suppliers in this market,” she told Spice.
Hotels are also seeing a drop in bookings, with Accor’s Vice President of Operations for Thailand, Paul Stevens, telling Spice he doesn’t believe it will last long.
“Due to the political developments in Thailand, we have seen some MICE group cancellations and a drop in bookings, however, we believe the impact will be short-term,” he said. “Our hotels in Thailand are currently operating as normal and taking precautions to ensure guest safety and the continuity of business and guest services.”
Minor Hotel Group’s (Anantara, Avani, Per Aquum, Oaks and Elewana) Director of Public Relations and Communications, Mark Thomson, agrees with Stevens, saying “the media has played it up”.
“I have never seen any soldiers,” he told Spice in Sydney yesterday (May 26). “We go to work as usual. While there are a lot of people who are worried, it’s really a wait and see situation.
“The real issue is that once travel warnings have been issued, insurance companies won’t insure travellers so there’s a knock on effect.”
The Minor Hotel Group’s policy on bookings is that if a guest is uncomfortable, they will move the booking to another property, another city or, if necessary, another country.
A recent Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) statement said that all public transport and tourist attractions, including airports, tourist sites and shopping malls, are currently open and operating as normal but that visitors should avoid rally sites. The anti-government groups’ rally sites are situated in areas surrounding Government House – at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue and Chamai Maruchet Bridge on Phitsanulok Road – and at Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road as well as at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue (a camping site) while the pro-government group’s rally site is on Aksa Road in Bangkok’s western outskirts.
Despite many reports saying that areas outside of Bangkok are unaffected, a nationwide curfew of 10pm – 5am is being enforced with the only exception being passengers travelling to and from the airport.