Bangkok’s office of Asian Trails is just in the midst of the action. Offices of one of Thailand’s top inbound tour operators are located next to Ratchadamri Boulevard, just a block away from the Four Seasons Hotel and consequently the camp of the Red Shirts rioters. Asked if he comes to the office by helicopter or on a motorcycle-taxi, Luzi Matzig says that he still comes by car for the back streets are not yet blocked.
On a more serious note, Asian Trails CEO wants to voice his anger at Western countries that have issued travel warnings and advisories against travels to Bangkok, if not to the whole Thailand.
“Germany, France, the UK and now Switzerland have all issued travel advisories to avoid Bangkok, unless it is vital to visit there. This is a totally misguided and hasty reaction. Only a tiny part of Bangkok is currently occupied by the Red Shirts. The rest of the capital is still open to the public and lives in a very normal way”, he says. “They were fewer countries that issued a travel warning even when Bangkok’s airports were blocked by the Yellow Shirts in December 2008,” recalls Matzig.
Asian Trails organizes daily tours to the Royal Palace and the temples around the it. And according to Matzig, tourists do not face problems in those areas as in many others outside the Lumpini Park-Ratchaprasong perimeter. “We know that some high profile hotels such as the Four Seasons, the Grand Hyatt or the Intercontinental have now been closed for over a week. However, tourists to Bangkok can have a wonderful experience by staying in hotels in other areas. What about the Peninsula, the Shangri-La or the Oriental along the Chao Praya River, a rather picturesque part of the capital?” adds Matzig.
For Asian Trails CEO, West’s reactions is an overkill. “They just issue advisories to cover their back sides. In case of anything going wrong, they would just say that they have warned their citizens beforehand” says Matzig.
“Besides, there is no danger at all in Thailand’s main seaside resort areas. Many of our customers now ask to switch Bangkok to go instead to Phuket or Samui. Hotels are doing pretty well in places such as Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket or Krabi.”
Luzi Matzig acknowledges however that Thailand is facing its worst crisis in at least two decades.
“It is a very tough time. Not only because Thailand’s image is seriously battered, but because of the reaction –or better said the absence of reaction- from the government. It is incredible that nothing has been done over the last two weeks, since the Red Shirts moved into the city center. It is the second time- after the airports’ incidents two years ago- that Thailand’s government shows its ineptnessto to solve the problem quickly. And this perhaps is the most worrisome problem for visitors to the Kingdom.”