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Thailand is ready to welcome visitors, despite domestic politics

Thailand is ready to welcome visitors, despite domestic politics (Forimmediaterelease.net) BANGKOK, THAILAND, September 3, 2008 - The political stand-off in Thailand is starting to impact tourism, despite almost all tourism facilities and services operating normally and protests currently limited to a small area of Bangkok.

The state of emergency announced by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Tuesday followed clashes among protesters in Bangkok and temporary disruption at regional airports, including Phuket.

The decree does not involve a curfew or any other measures restricting the movement of people around Bangkok or the Kingdom.

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the decree is a “temporary measure" applicable only in Bangkok and that “the Government will continue to exercise utmost restraint".

The current protests are limited to the immediate area around Government House in Bangkok. Visitors to Bangkok should avoid this area.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Thailand-based PATA members can confirm the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement that “in other districts of Bangkok and the rest of the Kingdom, people continue to carry out their livelihood as usual with the country's economic and financial system functioning normally".

PATA has gathered industry views to accurately describe what prospective travellers can expect in Thailand to help them make informed decisions and to limit unnecessary cancellations.

The tourism facts as of September 3 are as follows:-

" Bangkok International Airport is operating normally. Services have resumed as normal at Phuket airport. There continue to be some concerns about Hat Yai airport. All other regional airports are operating normally.

" Major surface routes between Bangkok and other parts of Thailand are unaffected, although there may be disruptions to rail services to some provinces.

" Bangkok's city taxi and rail services are unaffected.

" All hotels and resorts in Bangkok and throughout Thailand are open for business as usual.

" All tourist attractions, shopping centres, markets, restaurants and clubs are operating normally in Bangkok and throughout the Kingdom.

“Many of Thailand's prospective visitors are understandably reluctant to travel when they hear about a state of emergency being declared and see images of violent clashes in media reports," said PATA President and CEO Peter de Jong.

“The reality, however, is that life is continuing as normal in Bangkok and Thailand and that, as of today (September 3), there is minimal threat to the safety of visitors to the Kingdom."

Mr de Jong said PATA would continue to monitor the situation and advise of any changes.

Inevitably, the travel and tourism industry is being affected by the situation.

PATA member Asian Trails has received cancellations, and has implemented contingencies for clients affected by the temporary disruption of domestic rail and air services.

Asian Trails' boss Luzi Matzig said: “We hope that by end of this week things will return to normal in which case damage will be limited to maybe 10% of September arrivals, 5% of October arrivals."

“September is traditionally the low season for international travel to Thailand, therefore, in terms of volume, the impact may well be minimal if things return to normal soon," noted PATA Director - Strategic Intelligence Centre John Koldowski.

PATA member Indochina Services Travel Group's bookings and client itineraries have yet to be affected by events.

“As long as the demonstrations remain non-violent and localised to a small area we feel the impact will be minimal, even if it is not resolved for a few weeks," said CEO Gregory Duffell.

Both Mr Duffell and Mr Matzig agree that the biggest challenge for the Thai travel and tourism industry will be restoring the reputation of the destination in the wake of media coverage and travel advisories.

ABOUT PATA

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a membership association that acts as a catalyst for the responsible development of the Asia Pacific travel and tourism industry. In partnership with PATA's private- and public-sector members, it enhances the sustainable growth, value and quality of travel and tourism to, from and within the region.

PATA provides leadership to the collective efforts of nearly 100 government, state and city tourism bodies, more than 55 international airlines and cruise lines, and hundreds of travel industry companies. In addition, thousands of travel professionals belong to more than 30 PATA chapters worldwide.

PATA's Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC) offers unrivalled data and insights, including Asia Pacific inbound and outbound statistics, analyses and forecasts, as well as in-depth reports on strategic tourism markets.

For more information, please visit www.PATA.org.

Online pressroom: www.PATA.org/news

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