Tourist business as usual in Thailand

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IOL THAILAND-PROTEST-_0524_11

REUTERS

A Thai protester reflects the silencing of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who an aide said was in a safe place after being held when the army seized power this week. The coup has been opposed by her supporters and pro-democracy activists. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Durban - While South Africans have not rushed to cancel trips to Thailand, travel agents have warned people travelling there they will have to conform to strict restrictions imposed by the military.

On Thursday the Thai military imposed a countrywide curfew between 10pm and 5am, which also applies to tourists.

According to a communiqué the government sent to travel agents, travellers must be in their hotels by 10pm and may not leave until 5am.

The curfew does not apply to those going to or from airports, but passports and tickets are needed to prove this.

Public transport, shops, bars, clubs and restaurants are adjusting operating hours to comply.

Flight Centre SA general manager Andrew Stark said business had not been affected, but “we’ve advised people to postpone non-essential travel to Bangkok for now, since the situation escalated in the past 48 hours.”

He said the South African government had imposed no travel restrictions.

Thompson Holidays, which, according to its website, caters primarily to leisure travellers based in southern Africa, says business has not been affected.

Media relations officer John Ridler said: “Little has changed since the military coup. The street protesters have disappeared, and there is a curfew.”

He said tourists needed to comply with the curfew.

“Those who have travel arrangements outside of the curfew hours need to carry valid travel documents. Airports and public transport are functioning normally,” he said.

Serendipity Worldwide Group’s Kim van den Berg said: “We are still sending people to Thailand. We have told tourists about the countrywide curfew, but our operations have not been affected.”

Durban resident Yogas Nair, who is on holiday in Thailand, said: “We are told to be indoors by 10pm. There are regular police patrols in tourist areas.”

Another Durbanite, Sum-aya Khan, 28, was more cautious and cancelled her flight on Friday.

She had planned a two-week holiday with her sister, travelling to Bangkok, then Puttaya with a stopover in Dubai.

On Thursday, Khan got a call from a friend telling her it was not safe to fly to the country.

“She said I should cancel my trip because a civil war was expected and everything was on shutdown,” said Khan.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation media liaison officer Nelson Kgwete said Thailand was a popular holiday destination for South Africans – they should remain calm and stay away from protest areas.

“There are a lot of South Africans on holiday and working there, but they are safe. Our embassy will remain open and provide any assistance that may be required.”

He said there were no reports of South Africans being caught up in violence and urged families with relatives in Thailand to contact the department if they wanted to locate them. “The embassy will monitor the situation until a return to normal,” he said.

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Sunday Tribune


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