Fewer trips seen as infections rise

Fewer trips seen as infections rise

Demand retained for nation's 'green zones'

A passenger is checking in for a flight at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province mid this month. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A passenger is checking in for a flight at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province mid this month. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A bleak economic winter is forecast for the New Year holiday as airlines are seeing declining bookings and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) estimates only 2.75 million domestic trips for the upcoming period.

Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air (TLA), said tourism demand softened significantly because of a recent surge in new Covid-19 cases locally, which began earlier this month. The spread began among Thais who brought the virus over from Myanmar to Chiang Rai, followed by a big cluster of infections that emerged over recent days in Samut Sakhon.

Prior to the new wave of infections, TLA forecast December to be its best month in a crisis-plagued year as local confidence had been improving month-by-month. The average load factor for TLA in November hit 75%, prompting the airline to forecast it reaching 80-85% this month.

"The colder weather this month was favourable for tourism activities, but unfortunately the string of new cases weakened passenger demand. As of now, the monthly load factor is lingering at 70%, while forward booking is difficult to predict," she said.

Though the virus has spread in the central region, this scenario is affecting every region as more people across the country will refrain from travelling to Bangkok and opt instead for nearby destinations accessible by road, said Ms Nuntaporn.

However, there is still some demand for travel to so-called "green zone" provinces, generally located in the North or Northeast. These are areas that have no reported Covid-19 cases or a low likelihood of infection, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. These are preferred destinations among domestic tourists during the winter period, she said.

"We have to be careful as there are too many negative factors. In addition to the outbreak, international flights are unlikely to return, even repatriation flights, in the near future for our airline," said Ms Nuntaporn.

Thai AirAsia reported an average load factor of 80-85% in December, below the 90% recorded for the same period last year.

The TAT issued a New Year holiday forecast for Dec 31, 2020 to Jan 3, 2021, projecting holidaymakers will take 2.75 million trips generating 10.7 billion baht. The projection for the government holiday of Dec 10-13 was 3.11 million trips, contributing 12.6 billion baht.

Average occupancy for the New Year is set to fall to 37%, down from 40% during the holiday period Dec 10-13. A TAT survey suggests people plan to take fewer trips as the virus is more widespread, while countdown parties in many provinces have been cancelled.


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