BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport looks quieter these days. The continuous flow of tourists has gradually dried out, while continuous flows of water pour over Thailand’s capital. Bangkok is now entering its third week of massive flooding, the worst ever for the last 50 years. Images of some of districts under water have run around the world, adding to the feeling of uncertainty for visitors. Many countries such as Britain or Switzerland already advised their citizens a couple of days ago to only go to Bangkok if necessary.
The latest news about flooding invading Lat Phrao district with its busy shopping malls and first-class hotels, as well as waters “licking” the pylons of Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) are not reassuring. News circulates further about the possible flooding of Victory Monument, a very busy intersection road, surrounded by numerous hospitals and ministries. However, most of the city center where tourists tend to go – from Silom to Sukhumvit, from Chinatown to the historical town – have seen none or very little flooding.
The lack of clear information adds to the confusion as it continues to feed rumors. For international travelers to Thailand, there are indeed very few sites available in English providing a clear update. Updated information is available on both websites from English-written newspapers, the Bangkok Post, or the Nation. But their information cannot always be taken as granted as they also echo all circulating rumors and focus a lot on skirmishes between the central government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
The most precise source of information for foreign visitors remains the news website from the Tourism Authority of Thailand ( www.tatnews.org ). Content has been extended with a precise update on places and areas unaffected by floods in Bangkok. PATA CEO Martin Craigh and even Centara Hotels & Resorts management, the latter being better known for its indefectible support to governmental institutions, expressed their worries about failures to provide clear information. Professionals have also complained about the embarrassing silence of Chumpol Silpa-Archa, Thailand Minister of Tourism. His only statement so far was published in mid-October when he declared that “flooding were not affecting tourist arrivals.”
For visitors interested to look at the exact floosing situation, BMA website contains an interactive map with flood progression under www.bangkokgis.com/flood/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=87. Red colour means over 30 cm water, yellow between 10 and 30 cm and green below 10 cm.
To make the public further confused, published photos of Thai Airways and other Thai-registered aircraft stranded into water created more panic among travelers. Despite the fact that those pictures have been taken at maintenance facilities at Bangkok’s former international airport in Don Muang, it had its psychological impact: more and more passengers are now avoiding transit via Bangkok.
The airports authority, AOT, indicates that during the last week of October, passenger numbers declined by 7% year-on-year. From 130,000 passengers flying on 800 flights a day on average, AOT estimated now that traffic has fallen to 80,000 passengers. Airlines are now starting to slash capacities by reducing the number of frequencies. AOT is trying to limit losses. After a long time where the authority remained silent, AOT published bulletins over the last two weeks to reassure that the airport was safe.
So far, neither Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, nor access roads around the airport have been affected by flooding with airplanes starting and landing normally. Experts from Japan and Germany recently inspected flood protection barriers and other safety measures and expressed their confidence that the airport would escape possible flooding. The reassuring statement seems to arrive too late as AOT and Thailand probably lost the battle against public perception.