Tourists to Thailand must remain vigilant


A Thai protestor uses a wire cutter in attempt to break down the barriers at the Thai police headquarters in Bangkok, yesterday. – Reuters

Muscat: The ripple effects of fast paced events in Thailand have hit holiday plans of the residents of Oman.

The violence and political unrest in one of the world's top holiday destinations have led to many tourists from Oman cutting short their stay there or heading to other parts of the world.

Hundreds others who had planned Christmas and New Year holidays in Thailand have put their bookings on hold. "A large number of people are now planning their Christmas and New Year holidays in places in China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka instead of Thailand," said Lakshman Weerasooriya, Country Manager of SriLankan Airlines-Oman.

The Thai capital has witnessed political protests since December 1 with demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. At least one person was killed in gunfire during the street protests and reprisal by the pro-government group.

However, the Royal Thai Embassy in Muscat claimed that the situation is improving in the streets of Bangkok. "There has been a lull in protests against Thailand's government ahead of the King's 86th birthday and that is one of the reasons our visa section is functioning normally," a senior official of Royal Thai Embassy in Muscat told Times of Oman yesterday.

Travel advisory
However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has issued a travel advisory for tourists, asking them to be vigilant and avoid areas where crowds might gather. "Tourists are advised to be vigilant and avoid areas where crowds may gather. Tourists are also advised to check travel routes and road traffic situation to avoid getting caught in traffic or they can use other means of transportation to get around in Bangkok, including BTS Skytrain, MRT Subway, Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link's Express and City Lines, and water-transport," says the travel advisory.

Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand has also advised air travellers about possible heavy road traffic and a lack of taxis due to protests in Bangkok. "Commuters are advised to use public transport such as BTS Skytrain, Airport Rail Link, public buses and vans, and limousine services. Air travellers are also advised to allocate more time before flight departures or at least three hours. In addition, Suvarnabhumi Airport has opened a passenger centre at the CIP 5 room on the 3rd floor of the passenger terminal to provide assistance to passengers whose air travel plans have been affected by the protests. Air travellers can contact the centre through Tel: +66 (0) 2 132 1999, Fax: +66 (0) 2132 8999.

"To check flight schedule, air travellers can contact Tel: +66 (0) 2132 1888. The centre and all contact numbers are available 24 hours daily," it says.

More than 70,235 Omanis visited Thailand in 2012. "From January to October this year, 40,000 Omani people visited Thailand," the official said.

A city based businessman, Mohammad, who has been to Bangkok several times, said the Thai capital didn't have the "same look" during his visit this week. "Since December 1, the streets are deserted and some of the main shopping areas in the city have been closed," he said.

This uncertainty forced him to prepone his return by a week. "Although tourists aren't facing problems, I didn't want to take a chance. You could be stranded if the airport shuts down suddenly," he said after returning to Muscat on Tuesday night.

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