Marisa Sukosol VP of Sukosol Hotels and newly elected President of the Thailand Hotels Association was asked by a Bangkok Post reporter what her thoughts were about the ‘Thailand Together’ government supported travel campaign.
Although close to 5 million people have registered, only 600,000 hotel rooms have been booked.
She replied “that the project would have more bookings if it allowed expats to utilise the privilege as well. There are up to 500,000 expat residents in Thailand. More bookings will benefit the hotels naturally. Instead of travelling abroad or to neighbouring destinations, Thailand has a host of second-tier destinations that can offer a variety of unique experiences”. There are also certain conditions in the Thailand Together campaign that can be changed such as 3-days advance booking rules. Domestic and even short-haul travellers book at the very last-minute.
(It had been reported recently in the Bangkok Post that expats spend significantly more per head than Thai travellers whilst on holiday in Thailand).
“As you are aware, most hotels have “Thai Resident Packages” and rates that are available to not just for Thais but all residents. There are great deals in the market now, as hotels need income. Most have closed since March and only 40-50% have reopened, running at less than 10% occupancy”.
She continued “May I offer some thoughts on the hotel sector at this time. The hotel industry cannot persist much longer without opening our borders to travellers. Less than 50% of all hotels have reopened, most are running at single digit occupancies. Some are considering re-closing because of low demand.
So, it is imperative that we start to allow general tourists to travel into Thailand, albeit with restrictions and strict guidelines. Protecting the health and wellbeing of communities needs to be our government’s prime concern. While doing this, we also have to change people’s sentiment toward foreign travellers. The chance of anyone carrying the virus will be extremely slim, not everyone has the virus and all have been screened before travelling into the country and also tested after arrival. Social distancing and hygiene measures need to be reinforced and containment of the spread, if detected, has to be managed. I have the highest confidence that the Thai government and
Thailand has been extremely successful at managing the outbreak, but we also have to realise that realistically, we cannot have zero risk. There will always be risk and error. We just need to manage and keep those at a minimum.
With regards to the “Safe and Sealed” area, I fully agree. The government can open up islands, or certain zones within an island where travellers can be quarantined in a resort, and be provided access to the pool or the beach on a rotation basis. The private sector has had the opportunity to share our thoughts regarding unlocking travel at several forums. The government has been very inclusive in this process. I think that no matter what the restrictions will be, we have to start somewhere. Travellers are poised to travel to Thailand, October will be a good time to begin.
Since the lockdown, our former president Khun Supawan Tanomkeartipume, has worked tirelessly to help the hotel sector. We have succeeded in obtaining social security aid for staff for a period of three months and also negotiating electricity cost reductions for hotels. We have also worked very closely with TAT Governor Khun Yuthasak Supasorn in voicing our financial needs to the banking sector.
THA’s biggest concern now is helping SMEs survive during the crisis. Hotels are still a viable business. We are just setback temporarily by the pandemic. What can we do to help owners keep employees and survive financially through this tough period. Banks need to be ease restrictions for soft loan financing. Perhaps the government can set up a fund to assist the hotel sector with short-term financing.