For over a fortnight now, a sense of normality has returned to the major streets and shopping districts of Bangkok after anti-government demonstrators, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), decided to scale back their protests as of March 3, 2014. The temporary rally camps at the intersections of Bangkok’s shopping and business districts –Ratchaprasong, Pathumwan, Asoke and Silom – have now been vacated leaving traffic to flow as usual.
Thawatchai Arunyik, governor, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said, “At last, the heart of Bangkok can get back to normal. This scaling down of the protests means that international visitors as well as local residents can quickly and conveniently get around the city’s key shopping, business and entertainment districts as usual.”
“However, it should be stressed that over the course of the protests, all the shops, hotels and shopping malls located on and around the four intersections remained open as usual and were always easily accessible via the BTS Skytrain or MRT subway if not by the normal road system. We hope that with the political tension lightening over the last couple of weeks, the government will see fit to lift the emergency decree.”
A big clean-up was held at all four of the intersections on March 1 and 2, 2014. This meant that all the rally stages, tents and food centres were dismantled. Blocked roads, including those in front of Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, CentralWorld, Gaysorn Plaza, MBK Centre and Terminal 21 Shopping Complexes, as well as the Silom night market, were cleared. Roads at these intersections have been re-opened to normal traffic.
TAT has arranged a spate of activities to show the world that Bangkok is back on track and open for business. A number of special events and festivals are being planned. Promotional sales campaigns will be launched to attract visitors from short-haul markets.
In January 2014, Thailand welcomed a total of 2,319,821 international tourists, representing a 0.06 per cent increase over the same month in 2013. TAT has set a target of 28.6 million, tourists in total for 2014 generating estimated foreign exchange revenue of 1.32 trillion Baht, up 13 per cent. In 2013 (January-December), Thailand welcomed 26.7 million tourist arrivals, a 19.6 per cent increase over 2012.
Sethaphan Buddhani, director, TAT Mumbai, said, “With the number of long weekends coming up in the following weeks, Holi on March 17, Gudi Padwa on March 31 and Good Friday on April, I expect number of Indians to jet set to their favourite destination, Thailand.”
A total of 1,049,856 Indians visited Thailand in 2013, representing nearly four per cent growth over 2012’s 1,013,308 travellers. This amounted to about four per cent of the 26,735,583 international visitors to the Kingdom during 2013.