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First Hong Kong travel agency cuts trips to Thailand

2013 - 11/28 [Thu] - 20:52

First Hong Kong travel agency cuts trips to Thailand

Company said it decided to cancel future tours to Thailand amid worried calls from customers, but tourism to Southeast Asian country seems unaffected by protests overall

Danny Lee danny.lee@scmp.com

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 5:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 8:52pm

Foreign tourists walk past police vans outside the parliament building in Bangkok on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

A small travel company specialising in tours to Japan and South Korea became the first operator to cancel trips to Thailand due to ongoing political protests.

Yesterday, Package Tour Hong Kong (PTHKG) suspended all holidays to Thailand until December 20. The cancellations affected eight future tours, comprising around 160 people.

Yuen Chun-ning, a business consultant for the tour company, said “it is safe to travel” to Thailand despite a handful of concerned customers contacted the firm wanting to cancel their holiday.

“We received a number of calls on Wednesday, that [customers] wanted to cancel and get their deposit back. After complaining … we have made a decision [based] on that.”

The spread of discontent to “other regions” including Phuket, another popular holiday destination, was another motivating factor.

Despite, the cancellation, it defies the wider travel industry, which is operating without any further cancellations.

Last year, Hongkongers made more than 604,000 trips to Thailand.

The Security Bureau advised caution for travel in Bangkok and Phuket. Protesters have broken into several government ministries in the capital and have camped there, in an attempt to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“Residents intending to visit the country or who are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution, attend to personal safety and avoid protests and large gatherings of people,” the Security Bureau website recommended yesterday.

The Thai Tourism Authority Hong Kong director, Titiporn Manenate, said she had not seen any further evidence to suggest holidays were being cancelled. “People have a right to protest, but [protesters] didn’t disturb the tourist areas,” she added.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, the executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said that all the agents he had been talking to were operating their tours without any problems arising from the current protests.

“All agents we’ve been talking to – their tours are still operating without any problems,” Tung said. “There is no cause for alarm. For the time being, it remains the status quo.”

“We will monitor the situation very closely, and in case anything changes, we will ask the agents to sit down together and see what measures they are going to take. For the time being, every remains unchanged.”

More than 1,000 Hongkongers on group tours in Bangkok are safe and trying to steer clear of protest hotspots, the council said yesterday.

It put the number of affected Hong Kong tour groups in Bangkok at 31, comprising about 1,000 people.

Since the 2011 Thai floods, Thailand has remained on the Security Bureau’s outbound travel alert, a list of destinations it deems risky. Thailand has an amber warning – the lowest of three threat assessments.

The Bangkok-based Nation newspaper quoted Suwat Sitthilor, the permanent secretary for the ministry of Tourism and Sports, on Wednesday saying protests has caused the number of foreign tourists to drop by 300,000 people. costing 16 billion baht (HK$3.85 billion) in lost tourism revenue.

Earlier on Thursday morning, embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence instigated by the opposition. Lawmakers backed the government with 297 votes in favour to 134 against.

Additional reporting from AFP

Video: Crowds besiege a government building in Bangkok





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