More about tourism in Thailand right now
I’m sitting here at Bangkok airport as I write this, a place I seem to have come to know quite well over the years. It’s still a few hours until my Thai Airways flight takes off so I wanted to use the opportunity to write a bit more about what Thailand is like at the moment.
Last week I published a post about whether you should travel to Thailand right now. It was based on my experience in Bangkok for a few days where I made an effort to see as much of the city as possible and how the military coup here has affected tourism.
In the story I disclosed that I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand who had organised a trip for me as part of a conference that was being held. Everything was planned well before the political unrest but I decided to go ahead with the visit anyway – it seemed a good chance to write about the current situation.
Well, a couple of readers criticised me and the story because they believed I would be biased because my costs were covered by the tourism authority. It’s something I firmly reject. It is very common for people like myself – journalists and bloggers – to have our costs paid for travel so that we can write about the destinations. I wasn’t paid by the Thai authorities, as one person suggested. I didn’t feel I owed them anything. I can assure you that I accept this kind of travel so that I can continue to bring you more stories from around the world. If anyone thinks that constant travel and work is a ‘holiday’ then they haven’t done it themselves. This is a job and I take a lot of pride in maintaining my independence and integrity. Do you distrust movie reviews because the critic saw the film for free? I doubt it. It’s the same for me.
I was heartened by the number of comments from people who agreed with my views on the current situation. But, on the other hand, those who were concerned about my post did raise a couple of valid points – aspects of travel to Thailand at the moment that I had neglected to mention. The thing I love so much about writing a blog as opposed to print journalism is that people interact with my stories, I have the opportunity to respond to them and I can write another story with developments (that’s what this is, by the way!)
So, on that note, I would like to address a few of the issues that were raised about tourism here right now. The first was about insurance. At the conference I mentioned earlier, organised by Digital Innovation Asia, this topic came up. We were told that many large companies and organisations are cancelling conferences and events in Thailand because they can’t get the insurance for them – even though they would still like to go ahead with them.
It’s an issue that tourists need to be aware of too. Because of travel warnings issued by many countries, some travel insurance companies will not cover claims in Thailand or will not issue new policies for the country. As of publication, 62 countries have issued travel advisories and 18 of them are telling citizens to reconsider travel here – including the US, Spain and Italy (and Iran, ironically enough). Each travel insurance company will approach this in a different way and it is something you need to check before you head here for a holiday. If you find yourself in trouble in Thailand without insurance, it’s bad news!
Another point that was raised was about the curfew. It’s true, I didn’t mention this in my original story but that was really an oversight rather than a whitewash. So let’s look at the details as they stand.
The Thai authorities have lifted the curfew completely in ten tourism areas – Pattaya, Koh Samui, Phuket, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Krabi, Phang Nga, Hat Yai, Ko Chang and Ko Phangan (including Ko Tao). In all other parts of the country, it remains in place from midnight to 4am. This will be an issue if your plan is to party in Bangkok. If you’re not a night owl and want a good night’s sleep before seeing the sights, it could be a blessing. I have had comments from potential travellers that they are actually pleased with a curfew because they’re travelling with children and it makes the cities quieter. I guess it’s about perspective, in this case.
One more point that was raised about my original post was that it didn’t go into the political situation in depth. In fact, I said openly that I didn’t want to cover the politics because the story was only about what the situation is like for tourists. Yes, there are concerning actions in regards to things like freedom of speech. But, on the other hand, pretty much all of the locals I have spoken to think that military rule is essential to solve the problems with the governance of the country. I’m not in a position to say whether they’re right or wrong, but it is an interesting insight. Regardless, you may decide you don’t want to travel to Thailand for ethical reasons because of what’s happening but I think the same could be said for many other countries in the world.
As I said, I welcome comments and concerns about the stories I write and I am glad I have the opportunity to address them. It does upset me when my ethics are questioned, though, but often it’s a case of perception rather than reality.
I do, however, stand by the main thrust of my original story. On the ground in Bangkok and further afield, there is no reason to fear for your safety. There is no reason why a holiday here right now will not be as enjoyable as any other time you might have travelled. In fact, hotels are cheaper and sights are less crowded so there are some big advantages in visiting at the moment. Other than fewer tourists where there normally are many, life in Bangkok is business as usual as far as I am concerned.