Mers blamed for cancelled trips in Thailand

Mers blamed for cancelled trips in Thailand
Tourists wearing masks to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) look around Myeongdong shopping district in central Seoul, South Korea
PHOTO: Reuters

About 10 per cent of trips to South Korea have been cancelled for fear of Mers, the Thai Travel Agents Association said yesterday.

"Tour operators and airlines operating to South Korea said about 10 per cent of their customers had cancelled their trips," said Suparerk Soorangura, president of the association.

However, the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome will not cripple the travel business from Thailand, as South Korean officials have given their assurances that authorities can control the disease, he said.

Thais can still travel to Korea but need to beware of and monitor the disease.

South Korean tourists can visit Thailand as usual, he said.

Kasikorn Research Centre reported that 437,500 Thais were expected to travel to South Korea this year. That is down from an earlier projection of 480,000 and a drop of 8.9 per cent from last year.

However, arrivals from South Korea are expected to continue growing by 17 per cent to 1.3 million this year.

The Foreign Ministry warned Thais who planned to visit South Korea to be on the alert for Mers and strictly follow advisories while staying there.

South Korea has reported two more Mers deaths, bringing the toll to nine in the current outbreak.

The virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed hundreds of people in Asia in 2003.

There is no vaccine or cure for Mers, which, according to World Health Organisation data, has a fatality rate of about 35 per cent.

Overall, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said Thailand saw a 38.2-per-cent surge year on year in arrivals to 2.3 million last month. East Asia was the biggest source, followed by Europe, South Asia, the Americas, Oceania, the Middle East and Africa.

Tourists generated income of Bt100 billion in May, up by 39.4 per cent from same month last year. Chinese, Malaysians and Indians were the top spenders.

In the first five months, Thailand received 24.7 per cent more visitors, or a total of 12.4 million in the period, while tourism revenue soared 25.1 per cent.

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