It is unclear how heavy a toll the blockades will take on Thailand’s tourism industry. Some of the 100 or so thousand people who were unable to leave the country have now begun their journeys home, but those still stranded are angry that they have been given little or no information. “It’s obviously chaos. Noboby knows anything for sure. We are permanently on a waiting list and we get the impression that we are not going up the list,” said one German traveller. “You don’t see anything. The people are gone from the counter. You don’t know when is your flight. They are not there. You don’t have any food, all the stores are closed. I think it’s not acceptable at all,” complained one Hungarian tourist. Thai authorities say they are well aware of the stress and frustration felt by tourists and have been doing their best to ease tensions.
Tourism is absolutely vital for Thailand. The tsunami three years ago dealt the industry a severe blow, but it managed to quickly recover. Then it fell victim to the global financial crisis.
Now these latest events threaten to deliver a potentially fatal blow. Tourism represents six percent of the country’s GDP and the last year alone has seen a fall of 33 percent. That figure is expected to rise to 50 percent next year. That translates into a million job cuts and the loss of some 85-million dollars a day in terms of imports and exports.
And it is not just passengers that have been left stranded. The fallout from delayed or cancelled flights are far-reaching. But not everyone caught up in the crisis has been put off from returning. “Well, I just feel bad for Thailand. I mean maybe people will come now and it’s unfair but I hope they’ll continue to come to Thailand and visit,” said one hopeful American tourist.