Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Thai tourism hit by New Year's eve blasts

Up to 15 percent of the four million tourists expected to visit Thailand in the first three months of the year may cancel their trips after deadly bombings in Bangkok, a leading think-tank said Friday.

The blasts -- which killed three people and injured dozens, including nine foreign tourists -- are expected to cost the sector 20 billion baht (555 million dollars) in revenue, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting.

The centre had earlier forecast that 13.45 million people would visit Thailand this year, generating tourism income of 428 billion baht (11.8 billion dollars).

"The number of tourists, both Thais and foreigners, will drop from our previous projection. The impact on tourism from the bombs will be felt not only in Bangkok, but also across the country," said the center's director Thanavath Phonvichai.

"If no more attacks take place, tourism will be affected only in the first quarter," he told reporters.

Army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont warned Friday that Thais should brace for at least months of political unrest, saying the government might not be able to prevent more bombings.

Tourism is a key money spinner for Thailand, generating about six percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Apart from tourism, Thanavath said consumption and investment would also suffer, with combined losses expected to total 30 billion baht.

The damage would result in a half-point decline in the first quarter GDP from original projection of 4.0 percent, he added.

The centre, however, maintained its GDP forecast for 2007 at a range of 4.0-5.0 percent, compared to 4.5-5.5 percent anticipated by the Bank of Thailand.