Dec 02, 2013

    The mind says no, but the (weaker) baht says yes

    THE raging political protests in the Thai capital, which claimed at least four lives over the weekend, have unnerved some Singaporeans headed for the country.

    Travel agencies have received several enquiries from Bangkok-bound travellers about the situation there, although trip cancellations remained minimal.

    At least two agencies have seen clients change their travel plans to Thailand amid news of escalating tensions in Bangkok. A spokesman for New Shan Travel said that up to 15 people have postponed or cancelled their trips since the protests took place.

    Chan Brothers Travel's marketing and communications manager, Ms Jane Chang, said that only one customer has changed his destination from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

    She added that the bulk of customers who have booked trips to Bangkok will be departing as planned. "It could be that most of our customers are adopting a wait-and-see approach as political protests in Bangkok have been an annual affair for some time now," she said.

    Other agencies found that Singaporeans are still flocking to Thailand in the light of the weakened Thai baht - currently at a 12-year low against the Singapore dollar.

    In April, one Singapore dollar was worth 23.17 baht. Yesterday, it was possible to get 25.53 baht - meaning that the Thai currency has weakened by more than 10 per cent in a matter of months.

    Ms Stella Chow, senior manager of advertising and marketing at Hong Thai Travel Services, noted that the number of departures to Thailand has gone up by more than 50 per cent for the period of August to November this year, as compared to that of last year.

    Marketing and communications manager of SA Tours, Ms Eva Wu, pointed out that tourists do not usually frequent the areas where demonstrations are set to take place.

    Corporate communications and brand management assistant Daphne Chong, 29, flew to Bangkok on Saturday for a four-day holiday. She said: "My friends were there last week, and they said it's relatively safe. So I'm not really worried."

    Ms Jaclyn Ng, 27, who works in the banking industry, returned from a four-day trip to Phuket last week. For her, the weakened baht was a "bonus".

    "I try to go to Thailand every three months for massages and good food...the favourable exchange rate will definitely motivate me to go more often," she said, adding that she will be visiting Hua Hin and Bangkok later this month.