Ratchaprasong businesses offer up to 90% discounts to lure customers

Economy January 18, 2014 00:00

By Somluck Srimalee,

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Businesses in the Ratchaprasong area have launched a promotion campaign offering discounts of up to 90 per cent in an attempt to lure shoppers and tourists back to the protest-plagued zone.

Tourist numbers in the area dwindled by as much as 50 per cent after the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) attempted to “shut down Bangkok” on Monday in the latest iteration of its three-month quest to replace the government with an unelected “People’s Council”.  
Small and medium-sized businesses in this area, normally one of Bangkok’s most robust shopping zones, do not have the economic wherewithal to survive if the protests drag on much longer, said Chai Srivikorm, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA), so the promotional campaign was launched.
Particularly worrying is the expected loss of revenue if the protest continues through the Chinese New Year at the end of this month. Temporary staff will be the first to suffer layoffs, not only in shopping outlets but throughout the service sector, including hotels and restaurants. 
That means 40,000-50,000 workers are at risk. 
However, Chai acknowledged that it was difficult to quantify the overall business loss from the shutdown campaign, as some operators had actually benefited from additional custom from protesters.
For the first two days of the shutdown, restaurants in the area were sold out as protesters poured in. That boon was short-lived, however, as the number of customers dropped by about 60 per cent on Wednesday and Thursday. Restaurant space in Ratchaprasong totals 600,000-700,000 square metres. 
In happier times, hotels around Ratchaprasong, which have 4,000 rooms, enjoy an average occupancy rate of 89 per cent. It is now 30 per cent. 
While the number of foreign tourists shopping in the area has plummeted by half, Thai shoppers are compensating. Their numbers have increased by as much as 30 per cent.
Normally between 150,000 and 200,000 tourists per day visit the area, half of them foreigners. But now more than 70 per cent are Thais.
“We cannot estimate the number of visitors now because every evening more visit this area, both people who have joined with the PDRC and those who travel here when the PDRC sets up entertainment events,” Chai said.
But regardless of how many people visit the area, the RSTA has tightened its safety measures and set up an up-to-date traffic-management plan. 
Meanwhile, hotels are offering discounts of up to 40 per cent, restaurants up to 30 per cent, and retail outlets, including those selling brand-name fashions, at all the shopping centres around Ratchaprasong are offering discounts of 80-90 per cent to boost sales. 
In a separate statement, Sirichai Praphan-Turakit, vice president for building operations of Platinum Fashion Mall in Pratunam, said the number of visitors had dropped significantly during the shutdown campaign, by 60 per cent according to the company’s internal evaluation. 
Meanwhile, the number of vehicles entering its parking building has declined heavily, by 90 per cent. However, most of its tenant stores are still operating normally, and have adjusted to the situation by focusing on online sales to replace the significant decline in the physical trade.
“We have launched security measures and other preparations, including staff practices, to deal with the situation,” the statement said. “We have prepared our infrastructure system and basic utilities, internal communication system, and security equipment. This also includes an increase of our security staff to cover all areas of the shopping complex.  
“We check all persons and vehicles passing in and out of all entrances of the shopping mall.”