Tourism is so important to Thailand that the announcement of martial law in the nation included a concession for travelers.
On Thursday, Thailand’s military chief announced the military had taken control of the government; a curfew has been imposed for the entire nation between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night. While areas in northern and southern Thailand have remained relatively calm, Bangkok has been hit hard by the unrest. The military chief said that security would be provided to foreigners, but travelers are advised to obey the curfew.
Travel and tourism made up $73.8 billion of Thailand’s gross domestic product in 2013, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Thailand’s travel industry provided 2,563,000 jobs last year, accounting for 6.6% of the country’s total employment.
A booming tourism industry is an obvious fit for a country with gorgeous beaches, crystal blue water and a warm climate, but military takeovers are not an unfamiliar event in the country. There have been at least a dozen successful or attempted coups in Thailand since 1932. The military’s announcement on May 22 comes after months of unrest, beginning in November of last year.
Even a country with practice operating during political unrest cannot avoid all negative impact on its tourism industry.
Last Friday the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Thailand. Although the alert is less serious than a warning — which the State Department has issued recently for countries like North Korea — the U.S. is still making sure travelers are aware of potential risks:
Demonstrations, primarily in the greater Bangkok area and occasionally elsewhere in Thailand, are continuing, and there have been regular incidents of violence. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all protests, demonstrations, and large gatherings. Protests may occur in Bangkok or in nearby areas with little or no prior notice.
Even in Bangkok, the airports, hotels and tourist attractions are still open. Travelers in the northern and southern areas of the country are still enjoying pristine beaches and tropical flora, and many are still visiting the capital city.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok advised U.S. citizens “to stay alert, exercise caution, and monitor media coverage,” in a security message. “You are advised to avoid areas where there are protest events, large gatherings, or security operations and follow the instructions of Thai authorities.”
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is providing updates for travelers on its website.