Singaporeans staying away from Bangkok

BANGKOK - Violent outbreaks in Bangkok have deterred Singaporeans from visiting the city, with travel agents reporting that bookings have slowed to a trickle.

Singapore Airlines has axed 46 flights to the Thai capital next month, in addition to previously announced cuts of 43 flights over the past two months. The airline usually flies five times a day to Bangkok.

Travel agents said the prolonged political turmoil there has affected travel plans over the March school holidays, which commence on March 17.

At least 20 people have been killed and more than 600 injured since anti-government protests started in late October last year. This includes two children who were killed by a grenade attack in downtown Bangkok on Sunday.

Last year, 200 Dynasty Travel customers went to Bangkok during the week-long school break in March. "But for the upcoming school holidays, we only have a handful - those who are visiting friends and relatives," said its director of marketing communications Alicia Seah.

Inquiries from business travellers are down to zero, compared to the pre-October average of 20 a week. Most are now heading to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Bali or Malaysia, she added.

Hong Thai Travel stopped featuring Bangkok tours in its advertisements from the start of the year due to concerns about traveller safety. Its marketing manager Stella Chow said: "Without the ads, we hardly get any calls about Bangkok and so, the tours have stopped too."

A Chan Brothers spokesman said general inquiries about Bangkok have slowed, although it is still receiving bookings for April and beyond. Travel figures for other parts of Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phuket remain consistent.

A Changi Airport Group statement on Monday said passenger traffic to Bangkok fell by a quarter in January this year compared to the same month last year.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel notice for Thailand, last updated on Monday, advises visitors to stay away from large gatherings and protest marches in Bangkok and to monitor local news and developments closely. It does not advise against travelling there.

Budget airlines Jetstar and Scoot are still operating flights to Bangkok as scheduled.

Despite reading news reports about the violence there, civil servant Ronneth Hock, 38, is still going ahead with his five-day holiday to Bangkok next month.

"I'm sure the rest of the Thais are still going about their daily lives as per normal," he said. As a precaution, he plans to ask hotel staff which places to avoid and return to the hotel before dark.

Frequent Bangkok visitor Shaun Wu, a regional manager in the events industry, visits the city at least once a month for leisure but is putting off plans to go for the next few weeks at least.

"My Thai friends told me some of the protesters themselves are confused as to why the protest had turned so violent," said the 33-year-old. "I don't think it's a good time to go there now."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.