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The curfew has been lifted in some cities, but a general unease will surely remain for the foreseeable future, which will hit the business travel and meetings business the hardest.
The Thai Hotels Association (THA) is asking Thailand’s military junta to create recovery plans to restore confidence from international markets ahead of high season as seen from very slow new bookings for October and January.
The association urged the military to release fro curfew more tourist destination areas such as Chiang Mai as well as some part of the capital, following the lifting yesterday of Phuket, Surat Thani (Samui), and Chon Buri (Pattaya). Operators also suggested that the military withdraw martial law once the situation is under control.
“What we (operators) fear of are two issues: bad news coverage overseas and travel advisories. These can stop hotel bookings or push tourists to shift to other countries.”
About 62 nations have issued travel warnings to avoid travel to the Kingdom.
According to THAI president Surapong Techaruvichit, priority measures should be made to boost tourist confidence. He proposed short-term plans such as organising fam trip or site visits for foreign media and bloggers to show that the situation on the ground remains normal despite the martial law.
“Hotel operators see that new bookings made for this year’s high season is slow so we fear that the industry’s forecast for the rest of the year willbe affected,” said Surapong. He noted that the travel industry already suffered a dramatic drop since late last year when street protests in Bangkok began.
According to THAI data, average hotel occupancy in Bangkok during the first three quarters last year was 70 per cent, an improvement from the previous year. But the figure plunged to 40 per cent this year. Meanwhile, average occupancy rates in key tourist cities like Phuket, Samui and Pattaya went down by almost 50 per cent. Tourists who made cancellations were mostly from East Asia and Asean.
On the other hand, hotels and resorts in the north and northeast have seen minimal impact with a drop of 15-20 per cent thanks to huge domestic travel during the Songkran Festival and New Year.
The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) is revising its marketing plans launched before the coup and curfew and is refocusing on short-haul and medium-haul markets. They plan to offer promotions and special packages for key market including China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
According to a luxury hotel operator located along the Chao Phraya River, the political tension has not only hit tourism but also chased away business travellers.