Bangkok blasts strike at heart of Thailand’s tourist industry
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Bangkok blasts strike at heart of Thailand’s tourist industry

Whether by accident or by design, Monday evening’s bomb attack at Bangkok’s popular Erawan Shrine and a second blast Tuesday at Sathorn Pier have struck at the heart of Thailand’s tourism industry.

Eight foreigners have been confirmed among the 22 killed in the bomb attack at the downtown Ratchaprasong intersection Monday evening, with an unknown number of foreigners injured.

Thai police said two Chinese, two Hong Kong residents, two Malaysians and one Singaporean were killed in the blast, while some reports suggested that an Indonesian national was among the victims.

CSI.Bangkok at work #bangkokblast

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While the Hindu shrine may not be among the Thai capital’s very top tourist attractions – it’s ranked 47th out of 445 things to do on Tripadvisor – Bangkok authorities believe the attackers chose the location and timed the bomb to cause as many casualties as possible. The attack Tuesday lunchtime took place at the bustling Sathorn Pier, just meters away from Saphan Taksin BTS skytrain station and located near many of the city’s five-star hotels and some major riverside attractions. Had the second attack also taken place during rush hour, this week’s casualty count could have been a lot higher.   (VIDEO: Bystanders flee second bomb attack in Bangkok) The attacks come as a severe blow to a multi-billion dollar tourism industry that has been showing signs of recovery after last year’s violent political protests and military coup. Even more worrying is that all of the foreign victims are from countries in the region – Asian, and especially Chinese, tourists have made up the shortfall in recent years as visitor numbers from Western countries have dwindled. While Thailand doesn’t always enjoy the easiest relationship with Chinese visitors, their contribution to Thailand’s economy is vital. Last year, 4.6 million people from mainland China visited Thailand, each spending an average of $155 per day. That number was expected to grow to 6 million visitors this year, a figure that looked in doubt Tuesday as the Chinese embassy in Bangkok issued a statement warning its citizens to exercise caution while traveling in Thailand.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, issued a ‘red alert’ travel warning for Bangkok Tuesday, warning visitors “readjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel”. The alert level, Hong Kong’s second highest, puts Bangkok in the same category as countries including Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Other countries showed more reserve, with Singapore warning travelers to “monitor the local news and developments closely and heed the instructions of the local Thai authorities”.

The U.S. and Australia urged its citizens to exercise caution, but did not advise against travel to Bangkok.

The chilling effect of these attacks is already being felt in Thailand. Even before Tuesday’s blast, Thailand’s Tourism Authority confirmed that some trips to the Southeast Asian national had been cancelled.

However, if the recent years of political strife and sporadic violence have taught us anything, it’s that Thailand’s tourism industry is resilient, are as the tourist that travel there…

Tourism in Thailand has even been called “unbreakable” in some circles. The events of the last 24 hours will put that to the test.