Thai Tourism Threatened by Coup; Effect on Cambodia Uncertain

Thailand’s Tourism Ministry has been biting its nails since the country’s military declared a coup on Thursday and imposed a nighttime curfew, but a Cambodian official said Sunday that it is too soon to say whether the lock-down will have a knock-on effect on tourism across the border.

Pornthip Hirunkate, the vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told Thailand’s The Na­tion newspaper on Saturday that warnings against travel issued by foreign embassies would serve as a grave threat to the country’s tour­ism industry. 

“More than 50 nations have al­ready issued travel warnings to avoid visiting the country,” Mr. Pornthip said. “We need to have a new government as soon as possible. If not…we eventually would suffer a greater negative impact.”

In Cambodia, however, Tith Chan­tha, a director-general in the Ministry of Tourism, said the only group of tourists whose numbers have dropped in the wake of last week’s coup was Thai nationals.

“Thai tourists have definitely de­clined, but there has been no de­cline in other guests entering the country,” Mr. Chantha said.

Asked whether that could change if military rule in Thailand was prolonged, Mr. Chantha was circumspect. “Let’s wait and see,” he said.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that the situation in Thai­land and the perception it creates internationally could ultimately lead to an increase in tour­ists com­ing to Cambodia.

“I think tourists come to Cam­bo­dia when there is political crisis in Thailand…because we don’t have any problems here to disturb them,” he said.

At the five-star Battambang Re­sort in Battambang City, just 90 km from the Thai border, resort owner Jan in’t Veld said it was hard to say what impact the political situation has had on bookings so far.

“May is the most quiet month, but it’s better [this year] than last year,” he said. “When there were previous problems it worked out well for us because some guests ex­tended their stay to avoid Bang­kok, then left from here straight to the airport.”

In Kampot province, near to the Vietnamese border, some guests at Ollie’s Place said they had changed their plans to move on to Thailand.

“I’ve decided to extend my stay in Cambodia because I’m uncertain about what will happen next in Thai­land,” said Anna Sturt, 27.

“I’ve heard a lot of people saying its fine for tourists but personally, I would rather stay here and re­lax than go to a potential politically volatile country.”

On the popular tourist island of Koh Phangan in Thailand, guesthouse owner Mark Johnson said that though the militarily-im­posed 10 p.m. curfew is still in ef­fect, the atmosphere for tourists in Thailand otherwise remained the same as always.

“The police have been gently en­forcing [the curfew], asking people to go home or they will arrest them, but otherwise everything else is normal and we are told it will be over tomorrow, though we are not sure,” Mr. Johnson said.

“But the main problem for us is how it will affect tourism—West­ern governments are condemning the coup and warning people not to travel to Thailand.”

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