UN World Tourism Organization ready to help Thailand recover tourism industry

Thailand is slowly working its way back from nearly two months of protests that rocked the nation's capital and surrounding provinces, wreaking havoc on the country's lucrative tourism industry. Red Shirt anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Bangkok hoping to force new elections. What resulted was weeks of violent clashes between the police/military and protesters that left the streets smoky and store fronts looted. The situation led governments around the world to advise against any travel to Thailand and the lasting images of armed soldiers and looted stores has prevented a swift turnaround for the tourism industry in Thailand.

Recently however the conflict has come to an end and the Thai government recently released a statement announcing "that political unrest in Thailand has been brought completely under control and order in the capital of Bangkok and the provinces of Thailand has been restored". During the weeks of unrest, Thailand's tourism industry suffered dearly. The government estimates the industry lost somewhere between $1.9 billion to $2.2 billion in tourism-related revenue.

The Royal Thai Government's Ministry of Tourism and Sports has stated that the government is working tirelessly to restore the confidence of visitors noting that the nation's premier vacation destinations remain pristine, peaceful and safe. The Thai government has set aside nearly $154 million in low-interest loans to Thai tourism businesses and has instituted a number of programs to instill confidence in Thai tourism. Among the programs being offered by the government are free travel insurance for foreign tourists, a waiver of tourist visa fees that extends to 31 March 2011, and even insurance measures that protect foreign tourists in Thailand who are injured or unable to travel out of the country due to rioting.

The government has also made assurances to travelers that all major tourist destinations, facilities and services remain open and are operating without disruption. The nation's utilities and mass transit systems are fully operational and prepared to handle tourism traffic. Suvarnabhumi International Airport and other international airports in Thailand remained fully operational throughout the turmoil and continue to run without disruption.

Thailand has bounced back from past disasters to once again become one of the world's top tourist destinations. The tourism industry and the country as a whole have previously overcome a 2003 outbreak of SARS, the 2004 tsunami that struck Phuket, and rioting in 2008 that closed the main international airport for days. With the recent lifting of a curfew in Bangkok, several governments around the world have lifted travel bans and restrictions to the country, paving the way for the return of tourists. Other tourism organizations such as the Pacific Asia Travel Association have stated their commitment to supporting a recovery plan for Thailand's tourism industry now that the situation within the country has stabilized.

The UN World Tourism Organization stands ready to work closely with and support the Thai government as it sets about the task of welcoming tourists back to the country. The UNWTO is committed to joining in the integrated efforts of national agencies and the private sector to make Thailand one of the world's top destinations once again.