The persisting air pollution in Northern Thailand casts a shadow over the festival and tourism as Songkran, Thailand’s traditional new year, approaches, making tourists and businesses anxious about fully savoring the festivities.
Expectations are still running high among businesses, and according to the Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting (CEBF) of the Thai Chamber of Commerce University, this year’s Songkran is expected to be the liveliest since Thailand started dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago.
125 billion baht spending anticipated
An average of 7,091 baht is expected to be spent on tourism by each Songkran festival-goer, demonstrating a resurgence in the economy supported by higher tourist numbers and tourism growth.
Thai people and tourist alike will participate in public water fights from April 13 to 15, which are seen as a purification ritual in the Southeast Asian nation for the first time in three years since the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Thailand from celebrating its famous New Year celebrations.
Worst air quality of the year
But Thailand is now experiencing its worst air quality of the year due to the yearly smoky season (from January to March), when farmers burn fields to prepare for the following harvest.
The severe transboundary haze pollution was a topic of conversation between Thailand and Laos and Myanmar earlier this week. Thousands of fire hotspots were discovered in Thailand and neighbouring countries, according to satellite pictures from the Thai Geo-Informatics and Space Development Agency.
PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter, is composed of microscopic particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers: they are thought to be especially dangerous because they contain various harmful pollutants and are small enough to get deep inside the lungs and circulatory system.
According to measures made by the Air Quality Index (AQI), a Swiss company that analyzes air quality across the world, Chiang Mai has been the most polluted city in the world for at least seven straight days.
Khaosod English newspaper, reported that a survey of local businesses indicates domestic travel to the city of Chiang Mai is already down for this time of year.
Mantana Boonset, reservations supervisor at Chiang Mai’s Anantara Resort, told VOA that bookings have been canceled in recent days, including by guests from the United States, China and Britain, who have been worried about how the pollution could affect their health.
Rightly so: Thailand’s Disease Control Department on March 9 announced that more than 1.32 million people had reported pollution-linked illnesses in 2023, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that tourists are now being increasingly worried about travelling to Thailand.