Samui ready to petition for cheap flights

Samui ready to petition for cheap flights

Help sought from roaming cabinet

The passenger terminal at Samui airport is empty of tourists. (Photo by Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
The passenger terminal at Samui airport is empty of tourists. (Photo by Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

Tourism operators in Samui are preparing to urge the government to help lower flight costs for tourists, while more hotels have been approved for alternative local state quarantine (ALSQ) status, including a five-star cluster owned by one of the richest families in Thailand.

The roaming cabinet meeting scheduled for Nov 2-3 in Koh Samui, Surat Thani and Phuket will focus on the tourism stimulus plan for southern provinces, as Thailand has rolled out a reopening plan for long-stay travellers with a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Vorasit Pongkumpunt, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said the industry is ready to take the first step in welcoming international tourists using the special tourist visa. Eight hotels have been certified for ALSQ.

Of those approvals, some hotels want to capture inbound market opportunities once again before officially announcing the package for international guests as the Thai market starts to gain some momentum.

Mr Vorasit said the number of ALSQs in Samui will remain at this level. No new hotels decided to apply for the programme, as the number of available ALSQ rooms fulfils the healthcare capacity for the island.

Mr Vorasit said tourism operators don't expect the long-stay market to fill up vacant rooms. Samui can cater only to hundreds of travellers per month, he said.

Operators need the government to help strengthen demand from the local market and the future inbound market by reducing transport costs to the province.

"We want the government to find any practical solutions to help travellers visiting Samui with cheaper transport costs," Mr Vorasit said. "Unfortunately, all entry points to the island -- both airport and pier -- are owned by the private sector. Bargaining for price reduction is hard."

Four luxury hotels in Samui owned by Asset World Corp (AWC), a property developer under Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi's TCC Group, are ready to take part in welcoming the first batch of international guests to the islands after properties were inspected by the authorities, but they still want clarity about the plan from the government and potential demand.

Stephan vanden Auweele, chief hospitality group officer at AWC, said all the hotels have undergone the necessary processes, such as acquiring partner hospitals and training staff.

As the domestic market has started to grow, with average occupancy hitting 25% recently, the company has to make a careful decision, particularly for its commercial approach.

If the company decides to let hotels in Samui take part in this scheme, Sheraton Samui can be the first property that can cater to guests, as it relocated all bookings to a nearby hotel instead.

Mr vanden Auweele said that whenever Thailand reopens, international tourists will want to come but it also depends on quarantine conditions. If a 14-day quarantine is mandatory, there won't be sizeable demand.

Lifting border restrictions is an important tool to let tourism operators survive, which is why European countries didn't seal their territories in response to the pandemic, Mr vanden Auweele said.

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