(BANGKOK) Every cloud has its silver lining and, so it would seem, every crippling protest has its tourism promotion scheme. In the four weeks since thousands of anti-government protesters, known as “Red Shirts” although they have increasingly donned other colors so as to confound the fashion police, shut down the high-end Ratchaprasong shopping district, tourism arrivals to Amazing Thailand have plummeted more than 40%. The result has been hundreds of millions of baht in lost business every day as hotels and shopping centers have been forced to close. But a creative solution, it seems, may soon be at hand.
Working feverishly to restore the confidence of global tourists and to prop up the thousands of affected jobs in the service and tourism sectors, Bangkok Governor Rodtitmakmak Naimahanakorn and Tourism Authority (TAT) Governor Naktawngtiaw Maimatungprathet held a joint press conference yesterday to announce the creation of the Ratchaprasong Pedestrian Mall and Issan Folk Festival.
“Bangkok has long been in need of inviting and friendly pedestrian spaces,” said Governor Rodtitmakmak. “Looking at the thousands of people who have spontaneously turned the previously traffic-jammed Ratchaprasong intersection in front of Central World Plaza into an outdoor party, I asked myself, why not build on their good example?”
Following recent efforts by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, both of whom have changed the faces of their respective metropoleis by turning previously busy streets into pedestrian-friendly plazas, the governor explained the Bangkok would finally join the ranks of world-class cities that are friendlier to their citizens than they are to their citizens’ cars.
“This concept has been around for ages in Europe,” said Governor Rodtitmakmak. “Think of Bruges, Copenhagen, and Venice, all of which are very pedestrian friendly. We’re extending that concept and giving it a uniquely Thai flavor.”
As to the question of how opening a pedestrian mall along what was formerly Bangkok’s ritziest shopping district will help the tourism slump, TAT Governor Naktawngtiaw expressed confidence that adding a cultural twist would attract global attention.
“Times Square… the one in New York, I mean… has its neon signs,” said the TAT governor. “We will have a permanent stage featuring Issan folk music and dance performances, outdoor screenings of classic Thai films, and booths serving sticky rice and grilled chicken. What tourist could resist?”
When pressed for details of when the Ratchaprasong Pedestrian Mall concept would be implemented, both men were circumspect. “Seeing as how the Red Shirt protests have gone on for so long and the area already has a circus-like atmosphere,” said Governor Rodtitmakmak, “we are hoping for a smooth transition from the protests to the pedestrian mall. More music and dancing and fewer political speeches, you know? Before long, Bangkok residents and tourists alike will return to the intersection to enjoy the lively nightlife and festive ambience.”
“How does that saying go?” asked TAT Governor Naktawngtiaw. “Oh, yes, when life gives you lemons, make manao soda.”
Of course, this entry is strictly a farce, a bit of humor to help the residents of the City of Angels deal with the frustrations and inconveniences brought on by the continuing protests. No direct quotes were taken and no offence intended!