Addressing the joint annual meeting of the Thai Hotels Association (THA) and the Association of Thai Travel
Agents on January 30, Associate Professor Dr Somchai Pakapaswiwat, who also advises the Government via the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), analysed how an attack on Iran would pan out, including the possibility that it might expand into a wider war involving the United States, China and Saudi Arabia.
It is the first time that the tourism industry has been warned directly to be prepared for the business impact of a potentially catastrophic geopolitical crisis.
It also answered in advance the question posed by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in its marketing pitch for an upcoming series of seminars entitled “Are you ready for the next crisis?”
Fears were raised by a lengthy article in the New York Times headlined “Will Israel Attack Iran?”
In it, writer Ronen Bergman, a political analyst with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, concluded: “After speaking to many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will strike Iran in 2012.”
Although some commentators have said they see the article as an indirect message from the Israeli government to the White House, putting pressure on the Obama government to step up its pressure on Iran, others, including Dr Somchai, clearly take it seriously.
Speaking at the Thai tourism forum, Prof Somchai made his Isreal-Iran comments within the broader context of three other problems affecting the Thai tourism industry – the after-effects of the recent flooding crisis, travel advisories issued by a number of countries following the arrest of a terrorist suspect and the Eurozone economic downturn.
Without offering any judgments himself, Prof Somchai discussed the implications of a closure of the Straits
of Hormuz and the impact high oil prices would have on the global economy, leaving it for the tour operators and hoteliers to consider the damage it would have on their businesses.
Asked if the industry should mount a preventive protest against what would be a clearly man-made and still avoidable crisis, a THA official said, “What can we do? It’s out of our hands.
“Of course, we hope that they will not do anything that will create more trouble for all of us.”
Prof Somchai’s remarks will put pressure on local, regional and international travel organisations to shift their focus to pre-crisis preventive strategies rather than post-crisis convalescence and recuperation.
–Travel Impact Newswire
and TTR Weekly