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North, South optimistic of raking it in during Songkran

The Tourism sector is optimistic of business prospects during the Songkran festival this year with many regions, especially the North and South, seeing advance bookings, while Bangkok is pinning its hopes on a peaceful political situation.

In the capital, Khao San Road is one of the popular places to enjoy the water-splashing festival in Bangkok. Last year, hotel occupancy rate was nearly 100 per cent, but this year the number is expected to be above 80 per cent, if the political situation does not lead to any violence.

This year, festivities on Khao San Road will be from April 11 to 15.

Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association, said so far advance bookings in the area were at 30 per cent, down 50 per cent compared to the same period last year. However, he is not worried about the trend as he believes online bookings will pick up later.

''Political tension in Bangkok is easing. Even if the number of foreign tourists would drop during the period, I believe Thais will help offset it by going out to play and spend more during the festival,'' he said.

The scenario in the South and North of the country is different.

Somchart Pimthanapoonporn, president of Hat Yai-Songkhla Hotel Association, expects full occupancy during Songkran. Advance bookings currently are already at 80-90 per cent. Malaysians are the biggest group of foreign travellers comprising about 80-90 per cent.

The local administration and police have beefed up security in the area, especially checking cars.

What they are worried about is local violence. Some time back there was a deadly car bomb in Dan Nok, which worsened tourism prospects, Malaysians in particular staying away. Its occupancy rate declined to 30 per cent during New Year and to 60 per cent during Chinese New Year.

''The political problems in Bangkok have not stopped tourists from visiting Hat Yai," he said.

Phunut Thanalaopanich, president of the Northern Chapter of Thai Hotels Association, said Songkran in the northern region this year is expected to witness the best performance in a decade. Apparently, advance bookings, mainly in Chiang Mai, have reached 90 per cent to date, about 40 per cent of them Chinese and the rest mainly Thais, Koreans, and Malaysians.

At present, there are over 41,000 rooms in Chiang Mai. He expected accommodation in Chiang Mai to be full during the festival period.

The eastern region seems to have been impacted by protest-hit Bangkok and the declaration of a state of emergency.

Bundarik Kusolvitya, president of the Eastern Chapter at Thai Hotels Association, said advance bookings were at 60-65 per cent so far, down from 70 per cent in the same period last year.

Pattaya is the biggest market in the eastern region. The number of Russian tourists, and Chinese has seen a big drop. The active group in the resort city right now is Indians.


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