My sister's family still insist on going to Chiang Mai next week, reason is they are flying directly to Chiang Mai. www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/travellers-hold-back-thai-situation-worsens-20131203
Published December 03, 2013Travellers hold back as Thai situation worsens
Some in Singapore postpone or cancel visit; travel agents see threat to industryBy Nisha Ramchandani email@example.com
[SINGAPORE] Travellers and businessmen here have begun to cancel or postpone their trips to Bangkok as the standoff in the Thai capital intensifies just as the peak travel season gets under way.
The protests, which have been largely peaceful until now, have taken a violent turn since the weekend as the police resorted to using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to fend off anti-government protesters determined to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government. Four people were killed over the weekend while more than 100 were injured, according to reports out of the troubled Thai capital.
Ms Yingluck, who has rejected calls for her resignation, said yesterday that she would "open every door" to seek a peaceful solution to the political deadlock, even as rubber bullets were used to keep the so-called "Yellow Shirts" from storming the heavily protected Prime Minister's office.
With the clashes now taking a more violent tone, a small number of travellers here have started to postpone or reroute their travel plans as airlines, such as Singapore Airlines (SIA), Tigerair and Thai Airways, are offering to waive charges for changes made to travel bookings, according to travel agents BT spoke to.
But if the political climate worsens in the weeks leading up to the year-end holidays, this could hit tourism hard, spelling bad news for the industry, which contributes about 7.3 per cent to the nation's gross domestic product.
"About 15 passengers are postponing and some (are) deviating to other parts such as Hong Kong or Taiwan," said Alicia Seah, marketing communications director at Dynasty Travel, adding that 80 per cent of its customers booked to fly to Bangkok this week are going ahead as planned. The travel agency has 100 customers in Bangkok at the moment, mainly from corporate travel and MICE groups, but tours are still operating as per normal.
"We are hopeful that the situation will improve by next week, otherwise it will definitely be detrimental to the entire travel industry in Bangkok as it is currently the school holiday peak season and many passengers are heading to Thailand for their year-end holidays," Ms Seah pointed out. Some have also planned to travel to Bangkok during the Chinese New Year holidays early next year, she added.
Nam Ho Travel, which has seen a few cancellations, has nearly 200 customers travelling to Thailand this month. A group of nearly 50 are scheduled to fly tomorrow.
Jean Keijdener, general manager (Thailand) for The Ascott, said the company has heightened security measures at its serviced apartments in the Thai capital to ensure the safety of its residents, though the areas around its properties in the city remain calm.
Meanwhile, SIA and Tigerair are letting travellers set to travel between now and Dec 8 rebook or reroute their tickets to Bangkok and even cancel their current bookings altogether. Thai Airways is giving travellers bound for Bangkok between now and Dec 15 the option to change their dates without penalty, while refundable tickets can be cancelled without charge. Non-refundable tickets will draw an $80 penalty fee, Thailand's national carrier said.
"There have been a small number of customers scheduled to travel in the weeks ahead who have requested to defer their travel to Bangkok," said a spokesman for SIA in response to queries.
Budget carriers Jetstar Asia and Scoot are monitoring the situation closely, they said, noting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has yet to issue a warning against travel to Bangkok.
In a travel notice released on Sunday night, MFA said that in addition to eRegistering with MFA (https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg), Singaporeans travelling to Bangkok are advised to stay away from demonstrations, monitor the local news as well as purchase travel and medical insurance. Singaporeans in need of consular assistance can get in touch with the Singapore Embassy in Thailand (tel: +66(2)2862111) or the MFA duty office, which is contactable round-the-clock (tel: 6379 8800).
The authorities in Hong Kong and the Philippines have cautioned against non-essential travel to Bangkok, while the governments of countries such as India, Japan and Malaysia have advised travellers to steer clear of areas where demonstrations are taking place.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand yesterday reiterated that Bangkok's tourist attractions and major shopping malls - some of which were shuttered on Sunday as the situation turned ugly - were open as per normal.
However, shopping mall developer Central Pattana has shelved plans to raise 8.86 billion baht (S$346 million) for its expansion by selling units of its property fund, citing the political unrest.