Long weekend travel outlook subdued

Long weekend travel outlook subdued

On second four-day weekend of the month, many may have less money for trips

Wat Tham Suea in Tha Muang district of Kanchanaburi is a popular check-in location for visitors to the western province. (Photo by Pongpet Mekloy)
Wat Tham Suea in Tha Muang district of Kanchanaburi is a popular check-in location for visitors to the western province. (Photo by Pongpet Mekloy)

Domestic travel during the four-day weekend is expected to be less lively, with average hotel occupancy at just 24%, as it is the second four-day weekend this month and many people have already spent money on trips.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) estimated local tourists will take 1.89 million trips this weekend, generating 6.8 billion baht, compared with 2.35 million trips earning 8.58 billion from July 4-7.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said average hotel occupancy during the previous holiday was 28%, which is higher than what is expected this week, with forecasts ranging from 9% to 51% depending on the region.

The central region has the healthiest bookings at 51% from 683,000 trips, as most tourists are from Bangkok and still prefer an excursion nearby.

Some tourists have already spent their travel budgets on the last long weekend as there were two Buddhist holidays, when family members typically return to their home provinces for religious activities together. This weekend, they may be planning shorter outings or day trips.

Southern Thailand is still struggling with weak domestic demand, with average occupancy for the four days at just 9%, with only 170,000 trips generating 782 million baht, TAT forecasters say.

This partly reflects the fact that most visitors from the capital to the South choose to fly, and many may not have the money to do that. The Bank of Thailand said this week that as many as 7-8 million people in a nationwide workforce of 38 million may have been left unemployed because of the economic hit delivered by the coronavirus.

Mr Yuthasak said the popular provinces are destinations within driving distance from the capital, such as Kanchanaburi, for which 178,843 trips are forecast, followed by Bangkok (122,701 trips) Chon Buri (119,571 trips), Prachuap Khiri Khan (115,328 trips) and Nakhon Ratchasima (85,860 trips).

He said the monsoon season is another reason preventing tourists from heading South as most activities in those provinces involve islands and the sea.

“The problem of domestic tourism now is about an imbalance between weekdays and weekends, as we could clearly notice divergent figures from bookings for those two periods,” said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at the budget carrier Thai Lion Air (TLA).

She said the average load factor for all domestic routes was 70%. But for Phuket, the busiest destination for TLA prior to the pandemic, local demand remains weak.

The load factor for Phuket, at 60%, is lower than for Ubon Ratchathani, a northeastern province that is not normally a tourism hotspot, as Thai customers cannot replace foreign travellers.

Ms Nuntaporn said TLA was currently using 11 aircraft for an average of 7-8 hours a day. Utilisation has improved significantly because of long holidays and tourism stimulus programmes.

She urged the government to create another holiday left over from the cancelled Songkran festival in April for a weekend in September, as it has no long holidays like July and August.

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