Shortage of alternative state quarantine hotels for returning foreigners
Alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels may be in short supply when foreigners are allowed into Thailand, with the Thai Hotels Association (THA) saying the extra medical cost is preventing operators from taking part.
Nattakorn Arunanondchai, managing director of Siam Mandarina Hotel, said becoming an ASQ hotel requires additional investment in safety, renovations and plenty of research on criteria to get verified.
As of yesterday, there were 31 hotels and 3,385 rooms that were certified.
Mr Nattakorn said ASQ hoteliers have to contribute an average of 40-50% of the package price to corporate hospitals for medical services, including two swab tests for each guest, 24-hour nurses, medical consultants and other costs for telemedicine services.
He said demand for ASQ is rising: Siam Mandarina's 120 rooms are fully booked until Aug 20, with a 45,000-baht package for 16 days and 15 nights.
The vast majority, some 85%, are foreigners who have work permits or families in Thailand, while 15% are Thai returnees who prefer ASQ hotels to state quarantine hotels, where they can stay at no cost.
Thienprasit Chaiyapatranun, executive director of Patra Hotel, said demand from returnees is not strong yet, as the government has not cancelled free quarantine stays for Thais.
Under that scenario, the number of rooms will exceed demand as people think twice about the cost.
As a state quarantine hotel, Patra is sponsored by the government for 1,000 baht per one room night with three meals, but the government is responsible for medical services and officers to guard the sites.
Mr Thienprasit said 15,000 baht for 15 days quarantine is a reasonable price if Thai returnees have to pay their own costs.
He said hotels should be able to partner with public hospitals to offer more affordable packages. Otherwise, the government has to help support medical costs for hotels.
THA president Supawan Tanomkieatipume said many hotels are considering the benefits of ASQ, as the regulation requires operators to partner with hospitals to allocate medical officers to accommodation.
The partnership comes at a higher cost for hotels, which are unsure of return on investment because they lack data on the exact market size and how to penetrate this market, since it differs from state quarantine hotels that receive intake from the government's screening operations.
Although Ms Supawan agreed with the idea to let returnees who are not students take responsibility for their own quarantine costs, she said the shortage of rooms is a problem the government should address before imposing the measure.
"Hotels are reluctant to join the ASQ scheme, as this incurs extra medical cost," she said. "If the government would like to increase ASQ accommodation, they should partly subsidise medical costs for hotels, and guests can pay less and have more choices."