Published On: Sat, May 24th, 2014

Curfew destroys Thai tourism industry, ruins visitors’ experience and nightlife

140519221855-10-thai-martial-law-0519-horizontal-galleryMore than the military coup in itself, the current strict curfew hours from 2200 to 500 hours will have a deterrent, and if it remains, a possible devastating effect on Thailand’s tourists, not only in Bangkok but also in Pattaya, Phuket, and other known tourist hot spots in the “Land of Smiles.”

After all, Thailand is very famous for its nightlife, and if the official Thai tourism promotion campaigns admit it or not, a very large number of visitors travel to Thailand just for that.

One of our eTN associates who is an expat and had resided in Bangkok for decades as an international known journalist, did not want to be named, but had this to say:

It is not the first military coup happening in Thailand.

Generally, such an event always goes bloodless, but this is more the curfew being imposed which is likely to impact tourism, if it is not rapidly lifted.

So far the situation is normal during the day. Offices and shops are open, and local shoppers as well as visitors and tourists still look for bargains. Public transport is busy as usual.

The army is rather discreet. There are some checkpoints along the main toll roads. “We see, however, a drop in shopping mall frequentation, as people feel worried. We just opened a new deluxe food outlet, and we feel the pinch of the coup,” says an executive of a fancy shop under request of anonymity.

It is getting worse at night. The city is now empty and dead. The famed entertainment areas such as Khao San Road, Silom, or the upper-class area of Thong Lor are out of business at night. It’s a sad feeling.

Most outlets close between 8 pm and 9 pm to let their employees go back home rapidly.

Only allowed out for now are travelers going to and from airports as well as night workers and specific professions such as doctors or security staff.

While bars and restaurants are suffering a real blow, other tourism businesses try to adapt. At Siam Niramit, a popular show about Thai culture, performances, and dinner starts early now at around 1800 hours, and the dinner and show is scheduled for 1930 hours. Before 2100 hours, it is all finished!

Hotels are also adapting. “For our hotel guests, we organize this Friday night movie event at our swimming pool together with some other entertainment,” says Katja Henke, General Manager for the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok.

The curfew, which is in place from 2200 to 0500 hours, is also accompanied by restricted access to television programs.

Only hotels and some businesses are still allowed to air international programs while cable TV programs have been turned off.

Despite rumors, the Internet is still working normally, offering an alternative for entertainment.

How long could it last?

“We do not have any information yet about a lifting or relaxation of the imposed curfew,” indicates the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “I do not expect that the curfew should last for too long, as a lot of business are at stake and depend a lot from tourism or evening and night activities.

“The curfew has been imposed to be sure that protesters will not create further disruption and return to their homes upcountry. The sooner the situation normalizes and the country comes at peace, the quicker the curfew will be lifted,” says an executive from the deluxe food shop.

Was restoring peace in fact the main drive behind the military coup?