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Phuket Opinion: Crossing the line

Phuket Opinion: Crossing the line

PHUKET: At what point does a protester cross the line?

By Jody Houton

Friday 7 February 2014, 03:25PM

It is perhaps not just when placards are replaced with weapons, but maybe when anybody prevents others from exercising their basic human rights, threatening public safety until they get their own way.

The Bangkok ‘protests’ show no sign of slowing down, and the cost in loss of tourism revenue is still being added up – industry losses currently stand at around B50 million, and are piling up every day.

In the capital, hotel occupancy rates have dropped to around 40-50 per cent depending on location. In Phuket however, according to the TAT Phuket, hotel occupancy is very much the same as it has ever been for this time of year – around 90 per cent.

What is harder to work out though is the loss of confidence in Thailand as a tourist destination and the negative long-term knock-on effects for other regions in the kingdom.

Many outsiders are unaware of how near or far the capital is from Phuket and other regions and the impact thereon.

As last week’s awkward BBC interview with former PM Abhisit showed, there is certainly confusion from an international perspective regarding what is taking place in Bangkok.

Although Phuket visitor numbers are currently on track, there is no saying what impact the almost constant stream of protests and blockades – some peaceful, some not – will have on people’s confidence in visiting again in the future.

So, although things may be as busy as ever in Phuket (which is good, we have to keep reminding ourselves), if the protests continue in the capital then it is only natural that people will start to think of Bangkok, and by extent, Thailand as synonymous with a high potential for potential danger.

Phuket is already facing increased competition from its less built-up neighbours, with Bali and Phuket in a constant battle for visitor number supremacy.

All it takes is a niggle at the back of a potential visitor’s head for people to give up trying to solve the conundrum of what exactly is the difference between both sides, for visitor numbers to plummet.

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