How martial law in Thailand is crushing tourism

Thailand martial law gives crushing blow to MICE sector

The opening of IMEX in Frankfurt yesterday coincided with Thailand declaring martial law. Most buyers interviewed at the show by TTG Asia flatly said they would no longer be able to hold events in Thailand.

Thailand’s volatile position with MICE buyers became virtually untenable following the announcement by the Royal Thai Army of martial law covering the entire kingdom, just as IMEX opened its doors.

The UK-based International Data Links Society (IDLS) had been looking at Thailand for its 600-pax conference next year, but communication secretary and director Emma Jane Taylor, who visited Bangkok last August, said: “For us, due to the current situation, we won’t come to Thailand because a lot of our exhibitors and delegates get nervous about it. We had our conference in Athens in 2012 and because of the riots we lost a lot of delegates and exhibitors. I know they are not the same countries, but we would still delay going to Thailand – we’ll probably look at it for 2016.”

Certain parts of the major Federation of International Pharmaceutical Congress, to be held at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre at the end of August, have been suspended.

An incentive buyer from Australia who requested anonymity said the imposition of martial law is “not good” news for her. She was about to confirm a 100-pax incentive in Bangkok and Phuket in March 2015 “but I am hesitant about it now”, she said. She had also been looking at Thailand for events for the end of next year.

“Thailand is not viable right now. I was shocked to hear about the martial law,” she said. “The Thai DMC said it would be over soon [and told] us to wait two to three months. We can divert now, as although planning has started nothing has been signed. It’s far less stressful than being faced with the ups-and-downs of waiting two months before deciding – too hard.”

Thai sellers said they had anticipated the move but did not expect it to happen so soon. Destination Asia Thailand’s deputy managing director, Wanchai Thavornthaveekul, said: “This actually could be good. We don’t have a proper [government] and it’s meant to keep the country safe. The locals understand that and it is our job to make buyers understand the situation. We’re glad the announcement came while we are still here to help explain the situation to buyers, rather than after IMEX.”

Away from the specific area of MICE, the Tourism Authority of Thailand says that the situation remains “unchanged in the city, except for the presence of soldiers on the streets, simply to maintain peace and ensure order is kept at protest sites”.

It adds: “The implementation of martial law has had no effect on transport and tourism attractions across the country. All public transport and tourist attractions, including airports, tourist sites and shopping malls, are currently open and operating as normal. There is currently no curfew in place in Bangkok or at any other tourist destination in Thailand. Local residents and international visitors can continue to travel within Bangkok and other destinations in the country as usual.”

TTG Asia / TTG Digital

[pictured: Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre]