SQ hotels want wider base

SQ hotels want wider base

Semi-commercial flights could fill slots

Thai returnees disembarking an Emirates flight are screened for Covid-19 at Suvarnabhumi airport before heading to mandatory quarantine at state quarantine hotels. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
Thai returnees disembarking an Emirates flight are screened for Covid-19 at Suvarnabhumi airport before heading to mandatory quarantine at state quarantine hotels. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

State Quarantine (SQ) hotels are urging the government to unlock the market to Thai returnees arriving on semi-commercial flights, calling for a clear timeline if there are plans to terminate this programme.

Thienprasit Chaiyapatranun, executive director of Patra Hotel, one of the SQ facilities in Bangkok, said many SQ hotels abandoned the programme as they could not cover the operating costs due to soft demand.

At present, SQ hotels can only receive Thais flying in on repatriation flights, which take time to process due to long waiting lists, limited seats and more expensive tickets compared with semi-commercial flights.

Patra Hotel's occupancy rate dropped from 72% to 50% in February and plunged down further to 40% this month.

Demand for Thai returnees during Songkran remains unpredictable as SQ hotels receive forward bookings only a few days in advance.

He said the reduction in quarantine time may help create demand, but a better option is if Thai returnees who take semi-commercial flights can choose to stay in SQ hotels. Hotel operators would then have the opportunity to fulfill room supply.

There are 22 SQ facilities with 7,114 rooms, of which 11 hotels are located in Pattaya, followed by 10 hotels in Bangkok and one hotel in Samut Prakan.

Under the programme, the government pays SQ facilities 1,000 baht per one room night, which includes three meals. However, late payment from the government is another challenge.

"During this crisis, operators do not have sufficient liquidity to operate. The government has to speed up transactions to SQ facilities," Mr Thienprasit said.

Whether the government continues the programme or not, a decision has to be made and announced at least one month ahead to allow operators to prepare, he said.

Phisut Sae-Khu, president of Thai Hotels Association's eastern chapter, said there are rumours this programme will end in May. He suggested it should be prolonged until the nation has herd immunity from mass vaccinations.

SQ hotels in Pattaya saw similar downward trends in March as the average occupancy rate dropped to 40%, having started to fall in December.

Mr Phisut said being SQ facilities helps operators maintain business compared with those keeping open for tourism. The latter hotels have only 5% occupancy on weekdays.

Excluding long weekends, occupancy rates in Pattaya reached 50-60% on Saturdays.

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