Thailand — Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association says smog covering North Thailand will cause massive cancellations estimated at 50% of advance bookings to Chiang Mai.
The northern town of Chiang Mai reported a PM10 level of 220, this week and Chiang Rai,180 km north recorded a level of 200. Both levels are a health hazard.
Lampang about 100 km south of Chiang Mai, but separated by a mountain range had cleaner air with a level of 135, but it was still in the danger category described as affects health .
Association president, Pornchai Jitnavasathien, said the haze continues to be a problem for the northern region particularly for Chiang Mai, which is a popular destination for travellers.
Haze shrouds the north, annually, for at least two months, March and April, until the southwest monsoon season begins. In the past it caused schools to close for weeks and was a life-threatening hazard for the elderly.
But economically it is a disaster as March and April are school holiday months and Chiang Mai is one of the most popular destinations to celebrate the mid-April Songkran festival.
The situation impacts on Chiang Mai tourism every year, the CMTBA president said. Tour operators inform travellers in advance to avoid criticism and they report 50% postponement or cancellation of tours, which will damage the economy by an estimated THB2,000 million.
However, the smog could dissipate by April if the annual mango showers materialise prior to the Songkran festival. The rainy season should begin by mid-May.
Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce president, Wiphawan Woraputtipong, said the haze condition is the worst case scenario for tourism as it causes cancellations particularly from South Korea and China.
Besides foreign travellers, the problem also discourages Thais to travel to the province. It will impact on the overall image of the province and damage the economy and tourism.
While the haze is a public health hazard, the overall situation for tourists is also very negative. The landscape is shrouded in a blue/grey haze, visibility is reduced to a less than 5 km. Mountain landscapes, blue skies, crisp clean air are replaced by depressing grey hues and poor air quality that causes headaches, watery eyes and sore throats. It makes for a miserably holiday scenario.
Tour operators who value their customers cannot recommend trips to North Thailand as long as the haze persists. This is an annual recurrence that lops off two months from the sellable tourism season for northern destinations.
Even the Chiang Mai governor, Suriya Prasartbandit, admits air pollution is now very high in the province.
The Chiang Mai Municipality as well as provincial and local administrative organisations have been instructed to spray mist into the air more frequently. The worsening situation had started to cause a problem for tourism, the governor said.
Source: Ministry of Natural Resources and Environments Pollution Control Department