Apichart Weerawong/AP
Antigovernment protesters sit after
blocking a road leading to parliament
during a mass rally in Bangkok, Thailand.

Airline Hopes 100,000 Free Tickets Will Boost Thai Tourism

December 17, 2008 11:36 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
In an attempt to nudge skittish travelers wary of the country’s recent political turmoil, AirAsia is embarking on a special regional marketing campaign.

Budget Carrier Offers Free Tickets

The budget Southeast Asian airline announced on Tuesday that it is partnering with Thailand’s Tourism Authority to let travelers know that “it is now safe to travel back to the Land of Smiles.”

The free tickets are being offered on the airline’s Web site from Wednesday to Friday and can be used to travel to Bangkok from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China and other cities in Thailand.

Thailand’s usually booming tourism industry has suffered due to months of anti-government protests and recent changes in political leadership. On Dec. 15, the country saw its third prime minister in just the past few months, with the election of opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is faced with the task of guiding the country through tough economic times.

But Thailand is not the only country where tourism is taking a hit. Many of the world's major cities are seeing falling rates of international air travel and hotel occupancy due to the global financial crisis and in some places, terrorism or other violence. The bad news for the tourism industry comes just in time for the holidays, usually its biggest season of the year.

Background: Protests in Bangkok over new prime minister

Protests in Thailand earlier this month left tourists stranded, the airports occupied and led to concerns about one of the country’s largest industries. The antigovernment People’s Alliance for Democracy occupied Bangkok’s airports, stranding thousands of travelers and escalating months of disruptive protests.

PAD members demanded that now former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat step down, as did Thailand’s Chamber of Commerce, according to Bloomberg.

Thai government supporters held demonstrations of their own, which were accompanied by violence. A grenade injured nearly 50 PAD members at the cabinet offices protesters had occupied since the summer. Some hours later, there was a small explosion at one of the airports, injuring two people, Agence France-Presse reported.

PAD supporters had previously marched through Bankgok on Nov. 24 and successfully stopped the parliament from the convening. About 18,000 protesters spread throughout the city after leaving the prime minister’s cabinet office, where they had been since August.

The office of Thailand’s prime minister had been barricaded since late August. The country has encountered months of bitter public arguments over who is best equipped to lead the country after several changes in leadership.

The prime minister that was under protest, Somchai Wongsawat, is a relative of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra. On Sept. 17 he replaced Thailand’s ousted former prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, who was given the boot for hosting cooking shows while in office. Somchai, the former senior deputy prime minister in Samak’s cabinet, is the brother-in-law of Thaksin.

PAD leaders, which first took over the Government House in protest of Samak’s rule, opposed Somchai due to his ties with Thaksin.

Related Topics: Political advice in the stars

Reference: Thailand travel guide


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