100,000 Stranded in Thailand After Protesters Close Airports
Anti-government protesters affiliated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy attempting to bring on a military coup ousting the government and subsequently hold new elections have blockaded airports in Thailand, stranding approximately 100,000 travelers. The political violence grounded flights in Bangkok, as protesters successfully fight off riot police and occupy major airports in the area. Officials estimate that from now until the end of the year, Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry are set to lose $4.2 billion dollars, 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product.
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Increased desperation to leave the country, despite warnings from the embassies, has motivated some travelers to find alternative ways out, with some taking buses into neighboring countries Cambodia and Malaysia. Other buses have tried to find pacified areas in-country, traversing hundreds of miles to the island of Phucket in the south or north to Chiang Mai; to use smaller airports not in the areas of conflict. Thai Airways, as well as airline companies from all over the region, have sent planes to military base U-tapao where the small airport there has been overwhelmed by travelers trying to flee the unrest. Just 400 people can occupy the terminal at U-tapao, which has only enough room in its parking lot for 100 vehicles.
Charter options are available — for the rich and the famous, however. Denmark royalty Prince Frederik and his wife, Princess Mary bailed in a corporate jet, but English Rugby Captain Jamie Peacock’s 31-weeks pregnant wife is still stranded with the couple’s four-year-old son. Joe Wilson, a general manager for the ASA group, claims the charter company is making four to five flights out of Thailand a day since the unrest began to bubble over.
While Thailand was once a popular destination for tourists and backpackers, the social unrest will deter (but attract the crazier elements) travelers for years to come. This definitely spells trouble for Thailand’s tourism industry, immortalized in films like The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, and raved about in backpacking circles all over the world.