The resurgence of a tourism behemoth!
Thailand has undergone many subtle yet quick, swift, and relevant changes in the way they have addressed the issues pertaining to tourism livelihoods and Covid uncertainty. As we read this piece, Thailand has removed almost all the restrictions that were there until only a few months ago barring the requirement of Thai Pass application with mandatory Covid certificate and Insurance coverage, and as we hear it from the media and the people in tourism circle, even the Thai Pass is on its way out from the 1st of July.
What we have noticed in Thailand and especially in Phuket though is that there have been noticeable changes happening in this recovery process on a daily basis but the overall situation is far from normal or healthy. Many shops and malls are still closed. Small outlets selling lifestyle products, taxi operators, boat operators, and restaurants are still suffering and not all have come back to resume their services. Many hotels including some of the renowned hotels and resorts have new ownership now.
Still, there are high hopes of a turnaround and it is not without valid reasons. The number of tourists entering the country has been growing every day and new flights are getting announced from new sectors regularly.
The upscale chains of hotels and resorts have survived and are running packed many times our team facing this situation of having rooms fully sold out on our client’s desired travel dates. Although most 5-star and 4-star properties are very lucrative in terms of room rates, and not just a section and class of travelers who are unruffled by the pandemic have been spoilt for choice, even the budget category travelers are able to get premium resorts and hotels at very attractive tariffs.
This has adversely affected so many 3-star and budget hotels in the island provinces and even in cities such as Bangkok and Pattaya. They have customers too but their revenues have dipped to a level where they can just remain open and meet their operational costs. But this too is a welcome change and a sign that things can potentially improve faster and better.
Surging airfares amid the Ukraine crisis and a volatile global economy are a big concern. If airfares are not within the reach of mass travelers, the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ economy will suffer. Small souvenir shops, cafe & food outlets, cheap garment outlets, facility management service providers, and taxi operators will suffer the most if the number of arrivals gets affected.
That the major shopping attractions of Jungceylon and Central at Patong are still to open is a bit of a downer at the moment, and only time will tell when we see the charm and glamour of Patong’s shopping experience coming alive again.
Amid the concerns, there are many silver linings as well. People’s resilience has always paid off and gradually most businesses will bounce back, it certainly seems so. The street markets selling garments and souvenirs, massage and spa parlors, restaurants & cafes, boat operators and taxi operators are all striving to resume their services in areas near Walking Street and also away from it.
Attractions such as FantaSea show, Alcazar show, Dolphin show, etc are yet not running all day in a week, but they have been witnessing growing bookings in the last two months. Our own bookings for a relatively costlier attraction such as the FantaSea show have tripled in the past 2 months, and this is surely encouraging. The famed Island tours to Phi Phi, James Bond, Krabi’s 4 Island, and Samui’s Ang thong National Marine Park, have seen noticeable revival too. Most of our old partners have resumed their businesses of Yachts, Speedboats, Catamarans, and Big Boats. Our own bookings for the Island tours have been rising steadily week on week,
Leisure travelers and party-goers from western economies and other rich and developed countries, remote workers, and even the well-to-do families from urban India, and middle-east countries are all thronging the streets of Phuket and Krabi. Many of the bars and nightclubs including the famed Sugar Pub on the Bangla Walking street have opened with their regular program schedule. Some of the big names are still closed, though, including some of the sports bars and boxing arenas. Restaurants are on expansion too in some locations betting on the future inflow of the tourists.
Koh Samui is doing well too.
Overall, I could get a somewhat mixed feeling of what could be the exact roadmap of the post-pandemic recovery. It’s not rosy and smooth as anybody could guess, but it’s definitely sending positive signals to all the stakeholders.
For us, we have seen our bookings steadily growing since March 2022, and the last 2 months have been extremely encouraging. There has not been a single day in the last 2 months that we didn’t have at least 8 to 10 tourists to cater to. The numbers are still small but growing. People are demanding new sightseeing destinations in Thailand and new attractions within the already established Phuket and Krabi. We hope that we will start making an operational profit within 6 months from now. We can count on the holiday season starting October when families and corporate start group travel, and also count on the wedding season to boost inbound traffic to Thailand from India and from countries where there is a sizable Indian diaspora. Thailand being one of the leading destinations for Indian weddings, it is expected that the attractive and magnificent beachfront resorts of Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Hia Hin, Pattaya, and Rayong will once again find wealthy customers organizing their wedding functions on their premises.
The MICE sector provides great stimulus to the outbound tours to countries that are relatively affordable, attractive, and enjoyable. Thailand’s scores are very high on this front. With the corporate sector seeing an improved balance sheet this fiscal, there is high hope that incentive tours and exhibitions will provide for a significant upsurge in corporate bookings.
As we tread the path of this recovery process, we look forward to more investments into building our service and operations infrastructure. The countries that send most tourists to Thailand are also undergoing the process of economic recovery. With China and Russia unable to contribute to Thailand’s inbound tourism, the effect is widespread as I have highlighted here, but we all expect the scenario to change in 2022.