Thai curfew lifted in three tourist spots

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Associated Press

A Thai soldier stands guard at Government House in Bangkok. Picture: Sakchai Lalit

Bangkok -

Thailand's junta said on Tuesday that it was scrapping a curfew in three major beach resorts to woo back tourists in the wake of last month's military coup.

The measure will be lifted for Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket “to create a favourable climate for tourism,” the military said in a televised announcement.

“The rest of the country remains under curfew,” it added.

The measure was initially introduced after the May 22 coup for the whole country for 10.00pm until 5.00am, to the dismay of the owners of bars and other late-night businesses.

The junta shortened it to midnight until 4.00am late last month.

Months of bloody political unrest have dealt a heavy blow to the key tourism industry in the “Land of Smiles”, which welcomed a record 26.5 million foreign visitors in 2013.

The army takeover has prompted a flurry of warnings from foreign governments about travelling to the South-east Asian holiday hotspot.

But for many life in the kingdom goes on almost as normal and international flights are still in operation, with those travelling to and from airports among the few exempt from the night curfew.

On the day after the coup airlines saw 5 000 cancellations, compared with roughly 28 000 inbound bookings on May 19, according to Paul Pruangkarn, a spokesperson for the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

The Thai navy chief now in charge of tourism said last week that foreign visitor arrivals fell about 20 percent after the military seized power, but predicted they would soon return.

Hotels and airlines also say they do not expect a lasting impact, noting that it is now the low season anyway.

“After the curfew relaxation the confidence has come back so we have no worries,” said Deepak Ohri, chief executive of Lebua Hotels & Resorts.

He said his company suffered hundreds of cancellations in the immediate aftermath of the coup because of the curfew, but bookings have since begun to recover.

Airlines also say demand for flights to Thailand has been relatively resilient.

Emirates said its passenger loads were “healthy” and that it recently introduced a sixth daily flight to Bangkok.

British Airways said its flyer numbers to the Thai capital were normal for the time of year.

Thailand's economy shrank 0.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2014 due to falling consumer confidence and a slump in tourism.

The fear is it will contract again in the second quarter, tipping the kingdom into recession.

Tourist arrivals in the first four months of 2014 were already down nearly five percent on a year earlier at 8.6 million, with visitor numbers from other Asian countries particularly affected, according to official figures. - Sapa-AFP


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