Expo turnout stirs optimism

Clear signs of a tourism recovery have emerged after Thais flocked to the 30th Thailand Travel Expo, which ended on Sunday and generated 500 million baht in sales and bookings for hotel rooms and tour packages.

The strong turnout offered evidence that consumer concerns over political unrest are abating after the People's Democratic Reform Committee closed its four big rally sites in central Bangkok.

PK Exhibition, the expo organiser, says political strife has caused Thais to delay their travel plans this year.

"The relief of political tensions drew 200,000 visitors to the four-day fair, and sales of tourism-related products and services were estimated at as much as 500 million baht, exceeding the target of 300 million baht," said PK managing director Krit Patarapal.

By number of visitors, the Thailand Travel Expo is the second-biggest trade show held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center after Saha Fair.

Mr Krit said other factors driving attendance included promotions by tour operators and the timing of the expo, which occurred around payday.

The Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) revealed that the 14th Thai International Travel Fair, which took place Feb 20-23, also met its targets in welcoming 250,000 visitors and generating 300 million baht in sales over three days.

TTAA president Suthipong Pheunphiphop said demand among Thais for international trips remains strong despite the unresolved political crisis.

Furthermore, the relief of political stress should benefit local tourism during the Songkran celebration in mid-April.

There will be 30 charter flights during the holiday period, mainly to Japan, to meet demand from Thai travellers.

Other popular destinations for Thais include South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere in Asean.

Yuthachai Sunthornrattanawet, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, hailed the positive developments for tourism such as the removal of major road blockades.

Mr Yuthachai said the new, consolidated demonstration site at Lumpini Park would not have a negative impact on tourism in Bangkok.

He urged the government to play its role in promoting tourism by lifting the emergency decree.

"The tourism atmosphere will improve greatly if the emergency decree ends," he said.

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