Although the PDRC (People’s Democratic Reform Committee) protests that have blocked major intersections in Bangkok is only ten days old, it has cost Thai businesses millions of dollars in tourist revenue. And it started being felt in early January.
Talk to any business, like we here at WoWasis did, and you’ll hear a similar tale from them all. Two antique shop owners at Bangkok’s River City told us that business was down conservatively 50% in January. When we walked into their shops today, a Tuesday at 1 pm, we were told that we were the first customers that had visited either shop all day. At the Nana Plaza go-go emporium, Rainbow 4, a club that usually has 100 or so dancers on stage at all times, was down to seven. There were perhaps twenty customers in a club that easily seats 200. Rainbow 4 is a club known to cater heavily to the Japanese customer. We didn’t see a Japanese customer all night, at any club, when we were there. A veteran Nana manager explained that with so few customers, girls weren’t bothering to come to work.
The Bangkok Post reported today that major global investors have pulled their funds away from Thailand because of its instability. Wells Fargo was one of them. Singer Frankie Valli pulled his concert from Bangkok and refunded tickets, citing “safety and security.”
There are some ugly economic rumors, too. One has Agoda, the well-known hotel booking platform, having half a million Thai hotel cancellations in Bangkok alone.
The Thais protesting in the streets all think this is great fun, blocking intersections, blowing whistles, and singing songs. The fact is, though, that lost tourist revenue never returns, once it’s been spent elsewhere. International investors don’t return to countries where civil disobedience and coups seem to be the order of the day.
Regardless of the relative merits of each side during the protest, it remains an indisputable fact that Thailand’s economy and prestige have suffered tremendously due to the protests. Many are hoping for cooler heads to prevail and reach a compromise. But veteran Thailand watchers aren’t holding their breaths, and instead are having that sinking feeling that the situation will become far worse before it gets better.