Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Phuket, Bangkok still hot tourist destinations for Hongkongers, even as Thailand mourns king’s death

Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Allan Zeman says it’s ‘business as usual’ at his resorts. Meanwhile, Thais in city go about their work despite heavy hearts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 3:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 3:40pm

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday plunged Thailand into deep mourning, but for those in the tourism industry, the show must go on.

The country will continue to be one of Hongkongers’ favourite destinations, Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Allan Zeman said. He told the Post it would be “business as usual” at his two resorts in Phuket, though the management would be understanding if some employees were too sad to work and had to take days off.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who leads the junta, said in a televised address that the nation would hold a one-year mourning period and that all entertainment functions must be “toned down” for a month.

But businesses, tourist attractions and public transport were to remain open on Friday because of the government’s desire not to hurt the sputtering economy.

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Zeman said the announcement would not affect his resorts, which are mainly for accommodation, dining and retail and do not organise any entertainment activities or shows.

“We planned a staff party on October 25, but we are cancelling it ... We will just keep the basics, like guests coming and the facilities functioning,” Zeman said.

“It will be business as usual ... as the country will not close down for 30 days.”

Bangkok and Phuket are two of the most popular travel destinations among Hongkongers, and Zeman did not think the mourning period would affect Thailand’s tourism industry.

“Thailand remains to be a beautiful country, with its beaches and culture ... There’s a lot to do apart from the entertainment,” he said.

On Thursday, Hong Kong executive councillor Bernard Chan, who chairs the Hong Kong-Thailand Business Council, said he was confident that the country would remain stable under the current government.

Thailand’s consulate general in Hong Kong is preparing for mourning activities, including the provision of books of condolences for members of the public and Thais in Hong Kong to sign. It has yet to make any announcement on the arrangements.

On Friday, many Thais in Kowloon City, known as Hong Kong’s “Little Thailand”, went about their business with heavy hearts.

Dressed in black, Thai-Chinese shopkeeper Veerarat Sae-Chan and her business partner, Jetsadaporn Kesarat, could not help but shed tears on the news of the king’s death. They run a Thai grocery shop on South Wall Road.

“We and our staff are dressed in black today. This is what we can do for now,” Sae-Chan said.

She added that she would find a big photo of the king to put in front of her shop later in the afternoon.

Kesarat said: “I cry whenever I think about it, and whenever the television plays news about him.”

She feels disheartened by the king’s death despite having lived in Hong Kong for 26 years.

“My 12-year-old son was born in Hong Kong, so he does not understand why I am so sad, but I have taught him to also respect the king and wear black,” she added.

Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed her sadness at the passing of the Thai king.

“Having ruled for 70 years, he was the world’s longest reigning monarch. During his reign he travelled to all parts of Thailand, coming to understand his people and the difficulties they faced. He was greatly revered and respected by the Thai people, occupying an esteemed position in their hearts and minds,” Lam said.