|Empty chairs in the peak of season|
#1. It is affecting the tourism industry, but not the tourists
Unlike political crises in other tourism destinations around the world, the events in Thailand are not rooted in religious or nationalist extremism. Foreigners and tourists are not targeted at all, they are not even a factor in the political conflict. The disruption and violent incidents have only occurred within the perimeter of the demonstrations and, unlike in previous crises, airports and shopping centers remain unaffected and open for business.
The perception of the crisis is deeply affecting the tourism industry with major airlines reducing flight schedules (including Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific) and Bangkok hotels seeing devastating occupancy rates with Chanin Donavanik, CEO of Dusit International, stating to the Bangkok Post that Dusit Thani Bangkok has a 20% occupancy rate in the middle of the peak season.
Yet, the tourists remain unaffected with main attractions and shopping malls open as usual. Tourists who have encountered protesters report friendly and welcoming attitudes. Away from Bangkok, tourists in Phuket or Pattaya would not even be aware of the demonstrations save for news and worried inquiries from friends and relative back home.
Even the UK government’s Foreign Travel Advice, the best industry indicator, continue to advise extra care and avoid protests and gatherings (as of 20 January 2014), but the overall map of Thailand remains green: There is no advise against travel to Thailand.
#2. Thailand has been removed the major travel companies advertising
While not removed from catalogs, Thailand has been pulled from promotions by all major industry players in Europe. It is understandable from a corporate perspective: why take a marketing risk, however small, when there are alternatives begging for the opportunity (Malaysia being the main beneficiary in the region).
#3. Thai tourism providers are desperate to bargain with you
Learn the facts and keep up with the news to be well informed to engage with your clients. Search the airlines and call the hotels to put together amazing deals that your clients will consider if you inform them clearly and honestly about the situation in Thailand, emphasizing that there is no religious or nationalistic issue,the major concern of global tourists today.
Also read a related post on my Travel Notes (general audience): Is Thailand still safe for tourists?