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As reported by The Nation: The Nation


Restaurants report slump, but food-deliverers gain; some hotel bookings cancelled


Food delivery services are enjoying a huge windfall from the bomb attacks in Bangkok as people are afraid to go out, but few other services are benefiting from the violence that is feared will have lingering effects.


Many hotels have reported room cancellations, though no functions have been called off yet. Dine-in business at restaurants has been down.


However, suppliers of surveillance cameras are among the few companies which look set to gain from the heightened security concerns.


Though international event schedules remain intact, including the Eric Clapton concert this month, some functions might not take place.


If so, it would coincide with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's warning on Friday that people should brace for months of political unrest, as new attacks could follow the deadly New Year's Eve blasts.


Airports of Thailand has dropped plans to hold a Children's Day celebration at Suvarnabhumi Airport due to safety concerns, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand is considering whether to go ahead with the Pattaya Music Festival, which was set for March at the beach resort. There is no final decision yet as the TAT needs to discuss further with the event organisers, a source at the agency said.


Impact Muang Thong Thani said its corporate clients had not yet scrapped plans for meetings, fairs or concerts at its exhibition centre. Impact will hold four major events at its venue this month, including the Eric Clapton gig.


Index Event Agency has also witnessed no cancellations from corporate clients who plan meetings this month.


"But some customers, who have pencilled in marketing events in public areas throughout this year, called to tell us that they want to wait and see before they can reconfirm. This group of customers is the most sensitive to the blasts," co-CEO Kreingkrai Kanjanapokin said.


Index will organise more than 20 events this month, of which most are in-house conferences of corporate customers.


"I think the impact is just psychological. But if there is another blast in the capital, I'm afraid that we might not see marketing activities in public locations any more," he said.


Even without the bomb scare, fewer big events were expected this year, as marketers have shifted focus to holding cosy events targeting specific customer groups, he added.


Index will intensify its security measures. For example, visitors to the corporate meetings will have to undergo a more thorough search.


City hotels are also tightening up security, an executive member of the Thai hotels Association said. They have not yet been hit with cancellations for events, but hotels are discussing with the event organisers how to increase security.


"All hotels have already beefed up their security, positioning guards at the front of properties, while implementing strict controls for parking. Some have ended their valet parking service to allow for stringent controls. The moves are seen as very reassuring to guests and tourists who use the food and beverage outlets and pubs," the executive said.


The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce last week forecast fewer travellers this quarter, which would lead to a loss of Bt20 billion in tourism income.


The Landmark Bangkok's duty manager, Yuthasil Silapasorn, said the bombings had not affected the Sukhumvit hotel, as there have been no early checkouts or cancellations.


Bruce Ryde, area director of sales and marketing for the Intercontinental Bangkok, admitted that the hotel had had some cancellations, mainly from its international corporate accounts, but said that any effect from the bombings would be short-lived.


Bangkok has a reputation for safety, and that peaceful image will be restored in the medium term, he said. The Japanese market, though, will likely take a conservative view of Bangkok in the near term.


The Dusit Thani Bangkok hotel has processed a few cancellations, but no early checkouts, said general manager Reinhard Heermann. That shows that the impact of the blasts was slight and business would soon return to normal, he said.


Nikki Busuttil, director of communications at Amari Associate hotels, said only a few bookings had been lost, as this type of situation exists around the world. She believes tourists will still continue to flock to Thailand.


Among the segments suffering the most from the explosions are restaurants.


A manager at the Oishi restaurant in Seacon Square said the customer count had crashed by 60 per cent since the Bangkok blasts. The shopping mall was among eight venues where bombs were found on New Year's Eve, forcing it to close early.


Oishi had been welcoming 400-500 diners a day. New Year's is a peak season when the restaurant is full and needs to keep a waiting list.


"But after the blasts on December 31, the number of visitors to our restaurant dropped dramatically to less than 300 today," he said.


"Customers have been panicked by the blasts and daily rumours about bombs and coups. But I believe the impact will be short and consumer confidence will return soon," he added.


Niphon Ruengsilapavilai, manager of Bua Restaurant, which has branches on Srinakarin, Chaeng Wattana and Rama III roads, said patronage has slipped by 10 per cent.


"I feel the impact from the blasts. Consumers have been scared and don't want to dine out. I was shocked, as this kind of violence should not happen in Bangkok," he said.


Pavornwan Koonmongkon, president of the Thai Restaurant Association, said the association would warn its 80,000 members across the country to stay alert.


If there is any beneficiary from the blasts, it would be the companies that sell surveillance cameras - the most wanted item when police report a spate of bomb threats across the city.


Sommai Damnoenkiat, managing director of digital security-product vendor Vision and Security System, said the bombs might boost demand for cameras and merchandise of all the providers.


The bombs would prompt all state agencies to prioritise budgets to procure security products, he said. The Transport Ministry has urged the state enterprises under its umbrella to complete their plans to buy closed-circuit televisions.


Among Vision's customers are the Defence Ministry, the police and Suvarnabhumi. Vision estimates the security market will reach Bt3 billion this year and Bt4 billion in 2009.


But there is no reason to rejoice in the expected pick-up in sales, as the blast is a negative thing, he said.


"Nobody wants it to happen."

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