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Thailands arrival figures up, so are advisories
Jeremy Colson, Bangkok

Jeremy Colson, Bangkok  
(13th Apr 2004)

TOURIST arrivals at Bangkok International Airport for the first week of April showed a 93 per cent increase over the same period last year and, more significantly, a 9.2 per cent increase over the first seven days of the same month in 2002.

Public sector leaders are taking the figures as an indicator that their target of 12 million visitors this year can be achieved, but private sector operators are worried that adverse travel advisories could seriously damage the country's prospects.

Thailand's minister of Tourism, Mr Sontaya Kunplome, freely acknowledges that comparisons with 2003 are irrelevant because SARS had set in by April, but he said the comparison between April 2004 and April 2002 was significant.

“The latest figures indicate that despite earlier fears, demand for Thailand is holding up well,” he told TTG Asia, adding that the new figures had boosted his optimism and Thailand would reach its target of 12 million overseas arrivals by the end of this year.

“This month the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) is putting on roadshows in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Bahrain and Kuwait. New initiatives in Japan, Korea and the UK will also help to boost demand,” the minister added.

Spokesmen for leading inbound operators from Japan, Germany and UK were upbeat but their optimism was tempered by fears that travel advisories posted on government websites worldwide could damage bookings.

The governments of Germany, UK, Australia, USA, Japan and some Scandinavian countries posted adverse warnings last week following the theft of a large quantity of explosives in southern Thailand which the Thai authorities feared might be used against tourist targets.

The warnings generally advised tourists from travelling to southern Thailand, including Phuket, but also warned of danger in Bangkok and Pattaya. Warnings on the German government's website were particularly strong and mentioned not only the southern provinces of Yala, Patthani, Narithawat and Phuket, but also Pattaya.

Asian Trails' managing director, Mr Luzi Matzig, reacted angrily saying it was unfair for European governments to highlight dangers in Thailand unless they also highlighted dangers in countries such as Spain. “Foreign governments must not over-react. Their warnings are totally out of proportion. They must be fair or they lose their credibility,” he said.

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