Officials in Thailand announced on Wednesday that they will work to rebuild trust in the country’s tourism industry following a shooting at a high-end shopping mall the previous day. The incident, which resulted in the deaths of two foreigners, has raised concerns about the country’s ability to attract visitors from overseas and hindered hopes of a tourism revival.
Authorities have apprehended a young person who is believed to have trespassed into the Siam Paragon shopping center in the business district of Bangkok on Tuesday. The individual allegedly fired multiple gunshots, resulting in the death of two women – one Chinese and one Burmese – and injuries to five others.
The recent shooting occurred while the newly appointed Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is focusing on reviving the tourism industry, a crucial factor in the economic growth of Southeast Asia’s second largest economy, which has been struggling to bounce back from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
China plays a crucial role in this endeavor as it was the primary supplier of international tourists to Thailand before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, Mr. Srettha’s leadership implemented a policy allowing Chinese citizens to enter Thailand without a visa in order to make travel easier and address what Thailand had deemed to be baseless worries about safety.
The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thapanee Kiatphaibool, stated that government organizations will take additional steps to regain trust.
She informed reporters that there is a need to enhance safety measures for both Thai and international visitors, but did not provide details on how this will be achieved.
Srettha, a real estate mogul who became prime minister in August, stated in a recent social media post that his administration will prioritize the safety of tourists and implement rigorous measures.
Even though Thailand experiences frequent incidents of gun violence and has a high rate of gun ownership, security measures in public places such as malls and transportation systems are usually not very strict.
“This will impact tourism confidence and will affect our reputation,” said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand industry group.
Previously, there were concerns about safety in China, but this was considered unimaginable at the time.
In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Thailand welcomed a record-breaking number of foreign tourists, with 11 million of those visitors being from China out of a total of 39.9 million.
Their comeback to Thailand, as well as other countries in Southeast Asia, has been slow, leading the government to make the choice of waiving visas before the peak tourism season.
In the first ten months of the year, Thailand welcomed 20 million international tourists, who collectively spent 839 billion baht ($22.58 billion). The country’s goal is to reach 29 million visitors by the end of the year.
At Siam Paragon mall, which recently reopened, there was a small number of people returning to the usually congested street. A bunch of flowers could be seen next to one of the mall’s entrances.
Dong Peijian, a 34-year-old tourist from China, expressed feeling unsettled by the shooting incident.
“I am rather surprised,” he stated, “These types of shooting occurrences… could cause Chinese individuals to rethink and choose to vacation in other nations.” – Reuters