Unrest deals new blow to Thai tourism industry


From backpacker districts to high-end hotels, more than a month of opposition protests in the Thai capital are taking their toll on the kingdom’s tourism sector, with hundreds of thousands of travellers staying away.
Dozens of countries have issued travel warnings related to the mass street demonstrations against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, mostly advising people to exercise caution near the main rally sites.
The political situation reduced the influx of inbound tourists in the month to mid-December by an estimated 300,000 people – eight percent – compared with the number expected, Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, told AFP.
“Entrepreneurs are concerned that the protests might not end before January or February,” he said.
The protests – aimed at toppling Yingluck and curbing the influence of her older brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra – have left five dead and more than 200 wounded in street violence, although tensions have abated in recent days.
The political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and a royalist elite backed by the military against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in self-exile.