Thailand’s tourism industry has suffered blow after blow and yet still remains one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. This says something about the people and the natural assets with which the kingdom is blessed.
Over the recent years there’ve been all sorts of problems: volcanic ash, SARS, bird flu, swine flu, the military coup which ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the devastating Asian tsunami, the seizure and closure of the main Bangkok airport, the global credit crunch and most recently the political troubles in Bangkok and the subsequent knee-jerk response from several countries advising against travel throughout the whole Kingdom. Throughout all of this the media hasn’t been particularly kind to Thailand, dragging up each old story every time something new happens; especially in relation to crimes. A western man murdered by a Thai wife, a western girl murdered by Thai fishermen, a boat hijacked by non-Thai pirates are all stories which have made international headlines in recent times and yet, in comparison to most places, Thailand is still an extremely safe and enjoyable place to live.
And despite all these negatives, Thailand always emerges smiling, and tourism continues at a steady pace. Of course, certain aspects may slow it down at times, but it never falls away too much. And now that the country has a plan to move forward (hopefully without further political demonstrations to be broadcast around the world), maybe it can really reach its full potential.
It’s amazing how soon people forget about issues, and the first places to show signs of recovery will be those areas such as Samui, which remained unaffected by demonstrations, violence or anything out of the ordinary at all.
We have to accept that some tourists will be deterred and may never regain the confidence to return. We also have to understand that if a country advises against travel, then there are implications regarding travel insurance if a tourist ignores that advice.
Caution is sensible and travel advice too is a positive thing. However, it often seems that the headlines relating to Thailand are about the travel advice, rather than what the actual problem is. In the recent situation in Greece there were numerous headlines in the international press about the issues and the violence, but none saying that several countries have advised people not to travel anywhere in Greece. Were there similar headlines in New York following the foiled car bomb attack? No.
Sometimes when you’re here and reading the international newspapers it’s almost with disbelief at what’s being written. However, if you’re sat looking at the headlines and pictures whilst in Europe, the US or anywhere else in the world, whilst contemplating your first visit to Thailand, your reaction is likely to be completely different.
The reality is that enough people will not be put off in the long-term and most will at some stage visit or return. The longer the country can stay out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the better for the future.
Samui offers everything you could need from a tropical holiday destination and life on the island is rarely affected by any of the negative issues surrounding Thailand’s politics. However, it is severely affected by the Kingdom’s loss of image and any subsequent decrease in tourist numbers.
In the past, Samui has always bounced back incredibly quickly with everything retuning to normal within a short period of time. This time will surely be no different. But the dream for everyone associated with the island is that it gets a chance to proceed with the task of making Samui a world-favourite holiday destination without any more obstacles.
It’s clear for everyone to see that without the outside factors influencing tourism to Thailand, Samui would already be that. But with signs of political stability up ahead and the world emerging from recession, maybe now is the time for Samui to really blossom.
It’s inevitable that the island has suffered in some way from the fallout of all the above issues. But it has survived and, with a year or two free of nasty surprises or problems affecting tourism, the famous Land of Smiles will have plenty to grin about once again.