The Nation



Bright prospects seen for domestic tourism over 5-day New Year holiday

Robust flow of local travellers expected despite turmoil

Even though the political tension in Bangkok remains, domestic tourism over the New Year period looks promising with a strong flow of local people expected to travel around the nation - thanks largely to the five-day holiday announced by the caretaker government.

Vilaiwan Twichasri, deputy governor for tourism products at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, yesterday said that in the period from December 28 to January 1, some 2.48 million Thais are expected to take trips around the country, representing a year-on-year increase of 5 per cent.

This is expected to generate tourism revenue of more than Bt16.34 billion.

The figures clearly demonstrate that Thais are still prepared to travel, even though the political turmoil is continuing, but with most of them choosing to avoid going to troubled areas, she said.

During the five-day holiday, the largest number of domestic travellers is expected go to the northern part of the country - and especially Chiang Mai - to enjoy the cooler climate.

The TAT projects that some 690,000 local people will visit the North, followed by 600,000 heading to the eastern part of the Kingdom, 300,000 to the South and a similar number to Bangkok.

During the period, the authority projects the number of foreign tourist arrivals will also grow 3-5 per cent year on year to 500,000, generating estimated revenue of Bt2 billion.

So far, the organisers of New Year countdown parties in all five regions and covering 13 provinces have maintained their plans, despite the political turbulence.

Sarawut Saetiao, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said the tourism scenario in the Northern region was very positive, with hotels and guest houses reporting an average occupancy rate of 90 per cent and the region benefiting from the cooler temperatures experienced at this time of year.

The ongoing political turmoil in Bangkok has not as yet hit tourism in the North of the country, as evidenced by a lack of booking cancellations.

However, he is monitoring the situation very closely and if the political protests continue into next year and violence were to break out, the industry could be hit, especially as Bangkok is the main gateway for foreign tourists before they head off to other provinces nationwide.

Meanwhile, Pol Maj-General Apichai Tiamataya, commander of the Tourist Police Division, said his division would beef up its presence from December 24 to January 2 in major tourism locations such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Hat Yai and Koh Samui, in order to maintain law and order.

Pattaya is a congested resort-city in which a host of activities are planned over the holiday season, he said, adding that it is plagued by crime and problems associated with transvestite prostitution at the best of times.

Overall, accidents, alcohol-induced incidents and cases of fighting are normally more prevalent than normal in tourism provinces during the holiday period, he said.

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