Mourn­ing pe­riod for King Bhu­mi­bol is not ex­pected to af­fect tourism

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oncerts and colos­sal beach par­ties in Thai­land have been can­celled. An an­nual fes­ti­val meant to pla­cate the coun­try’s god­dess of wa­ter with lanterns that float into the sky will not take place.

And closed for the first time in years: red­light dis­tricts in the heart of the Thai cap­i­tal filled with seedy go-go bars so ir­re­press­ible they man­aged to stay open even through past mil­i­tary coups.

The death on Thurs­day of Thai­land’s revered King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej has plunged the South­east Asian na­tion into an un­prece­dented pe­riod of mourn­ing like noth­ing it has ever seen, and it’s likely to stay that way for some time.

But calm – not chaos – pre­vails, and the clo­sures and can­cel­la­tions are un­likely to last more than a month or have any se­ri­ous long-term im­pact on tourism.

Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha has de­clared a one-year mourn­ing pe­riod and urged peo­ple to re­frain from or­gan­is­ing en­ter­tain­ment events for 30 days. But he has also made clear that life must go on, and urged busi­nesses to re­main open to en­sure the na­tion does not “lose its cred­i­bil­ity”.

More than 30 mil­lion tourists visit Thai­land ev­ery year, ac­count­ing for about 10 per cent of gov­ern­ment rev­enue. The in­dus­try is one of the few bright spots in an econ­omy that has slumped since the army ousted a demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment in 2014.

In a state­ment, the Tourism Au­thor­ity of Thai­land con­firmed that tourist at­trac­tions will re­main open with the ex­cep­tion of Bangkok’s gold-gilded Grand Palace, be­cause it “will be the venue of the royal fu­neral rites”.

Bhu­mi­bol’s body was trans­ported by royal pro­ces­sion to the palace’s Tem­ple of the Emer­ald Bud­dha, or Wat Phra Kaew, on Fri­day as thou­sands of peo­ple lined the roads. Widely seen here as a uni­fy­ing fig­ure and the fa­ther of the na­tion, Bhu­mi­bol served as monarch for 70 years. The sub­dued at­mos­phere that has en­gulfed the coun­try since his death is un­mis­tak­able, vis­i­ble in the black or white dress worn by mil­lions of Thais in a mas­sive show of mourn­ing that has been dis­played even on man­nequins in lux­ury shop­ping malls. In Bangkok, the neon-lit din­ner cruise ships that ply the ma­jes­tic Chao Phraya River ev­ery night have turned off their boom­ing mu­sic. Even some of the cap­i­tal’s most prom­i­nent red-light dis­tricts have shut down. Nana Plaza, a three-story com­plex of go-go bars an­nounced it was clos­ing tem­po­rar­ily to “pay re­spect and mourn the pass­ing of His Majesty King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej the Great”.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Aus­tralian tourist Dar­ren Turner. “This is a man who stood on the throne un­op­posed for 70 years. He did a lot for his coun­try and his peo­ple, and it’s good to show a mark of re­spect for his pass­ing.”

The neon lights of an­other red-light dis­trict nearby, Soi Cow­boy, abruptly switched off af­ter po­lice and sol­diers paid a visit and asked bar man­agers to close to show re­spect for the king.

Hours af­ter Bhu­mi­bol’s death on Thurs­day, Richard Bar­row, a Bangkok-based travel blog­ger, tweeted that many tourists were “ask­ing if they should can­cel their hol­i­day”. His is ad­vice: you should not.

No for­eign gov­ern­ment has sug­gested its na­tion­als to can­cel trip plans, but sev­eral have is­sued ad­vi­sories.

Bri­tain urged its na­tion­als to “wear sombre and re­spect­ful clothing when in pub­lic”, and the US called on Amer­i­cans to main­tain “deco­rum dur­ing this ex­tended pe­riod of pro­found mourn­ing”.

While Thai­land’s stun­ning beaches and re­sorts re­main open, some tourists’ plans to see par­tic­u­lar events may al­ready be ru­ined.

In Chi­ang Mai, the city gov­ern­ment an­nounced the an­nual Yi Peng Fes­ti­val set for mid-November – in which tens of thou­sands of lanterns float into the sky – has been can­celled.

On the is­land of Koh Phangan, or­gan­is­ers of the renowned “Full Moon” party, which had been set to be­gin on Oc­to­ber 17, called the event off.

Khaosod English, a lo­cal me­dia out­let which re­ported nu­mer­ous can­cel­la­tions in the cap­i­tal, of­fered pru­dent ad­vice to its read­ers for up­com­ing events: “Call ahead first.”

SOMBRE: A bud­dhist monk stands next to a line of mourn­ers at the Grand Palace; (top right), mourn­ers pay their re­spect to King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, and, (bot­tom right) the Nana Plaza red light dis­trict af­ter it closed tem­po­rar­ily

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