Thailand series of bombs’ explosion in Hua Hin first then to various areas in Southern Thailand (Phuket, Phang Nga, Surat Thani and Trang) prompted fears that tourism could be the largest victim of the violence. Tourism is an important part of Thailand’s economy and generates 10% of the country’s GDP providing direct and indirect employment to millions of Thai citizens. But according to an phone interview of Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports to the English-written daily the Bangkok Post, “we have not yet seen any kind of impact but even if there is any, there is most likely to be a recovery as in the past”.
Thailand has indeed shown extraordinary resilience to most negative events occurring to tourism in the past. It seems that this time, it should not be any different, especially if it is proved that the bombs were the work of locals just taking revenge. The theory gained strength on Saturday despite little evidence that arsons and bombs would have been done by the former opposition. Since Thailand has been put under military rule in May 2014, the government relentlessly tracked opposition and eventually arrested their leaders. To disconnect the string of violent events from any Islamist movement would however help reassuring tourists.
Thailand police did not however totally exclude that Islamist radicals could be behind the bombs. According to the Bangkok Post, reports that SIM cards found in the mobile phones which helped detonating bombs came from Malaysia could give credentials to active terrorism inside the Kingdom. On Saturday, Malaysian police arrested nine militants, including two suspected of carrying out Kuala Lumpur recent grenade attack against a bar. The Islamic State claimed to be behind the attack.
In between, Thailand is likely to experience travellers’ cancellations during a short period of time, especially the ones coming from Asia. Chinese and Japanese travellers are among the most sensitive to safety issues.
Last year, following the bomb at Erawan Shrine -which happened on August 17, 2015-, arrivals from foreign tourists were soft during two to three weeks before bouncing back sharply. Most professionals estimate that the impact this time will be probably even less severe. According to Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand to the Bangkok Post, damage would only be important if the attacks continue and the masterminds are international terrorists.