Thailand Happiness Festival: Winning back tourists after violent protests

World Today

Thailand Happiness Festical: Winning back tourists after violent protests

In Thailand, efforts are being made to tempt back tourists after numbers fell sharply as a result of anti-government protests and a military takeover. One of the biggest events so far is a two-day festival in the capital Bangkok, from where CCTV-America’s Martin Lowe reports.

Thailand Happiness Festival: Winning back tourists after violent protests

Thailand Happiness Festival: Winning back tourists after violent protests

In Thailand, efforts are being made to tempt back tourists after numbers fell sharply as a result of anti-government protests and a military takeover. One of the biggest events so far is a two-day festival in the capital Bangkok, from where CCTV-America's Martin Lowe reports.

It’s being called the Happiness Festival and it’s designed to show that after six months of violent street protests followed by a military takeover of the government, Thailand is once more safe and can welcome back tourists to its shores.

Music, dance, fashion, market stalls and food are all being paraded to showcase what’s best about Thailand. It’s needed because tourism is a vital industry here, accounting for up to 15 per cent of the economy. However, deadly protests played out on TV screens around the world saw visitor numbers slump by at least 10 percent in the first half of the year, costing more than a billion U.S. dollars in lost income.

Visa fees for Chinese tourists are being waived for three months, after arrivals from China fell by more than 23 percent.

Since seizing power, the army council has now banned all political demonstrations, and calm has returned. Opinion polls claim to show a big majority of Thais feel stability has been restored.

Tourist organizations hope visitor numbers will climb in the second half of the year, with arrivals at least approaching last year’s total of 26 million.

Military rule is about to give way to a civilian assembly. Tourist destinations are safe for visitors, most of whom will see no sign of any military activity. Even so, severe restrictions remain on what people can say and do. Just how happy Thais are can only be judged when freedom to speak openly has been returned.