Tourism operators downbeat on domestic travel sentiment

Tourism operators downbeat on domestic travel sentiment

A passenger checks in for a Nok air flight at Don Mueang airport. The carrier has resumed all 23 domestic routes with 20-40 flights per day.  Pornprom Satrabhaya
A passenger checks in for a Nok air flight at Don Mueang airport. The carrier has resumed all 23 domestic routes with 20-40 flights per day.  Pornprom Satrabhaya

Tourism operators anticipate lukewarm travel sentiment as concerns over Covid-19 and weak purchasing power remain key obstacles for domestic trips despite the subsidy generating an additional 2-million room nights.

"Domestic tourism reached its peak last November, thanks to low infection rate and improving travel mood driven by many marketing campaigns and government stimulus schemes, but this year might not see such a volume again," said Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool.

He said different travel requirements in each province also deterred tourists from air travel and choosing nearby areas within driving distance instead, while tourists last year did not have to show any Covid-19 test before boarding planes.

He said the uncertain virus situation and low purchasing power caused by the outbreak also weigh down the number of domestic trips.

Nok Air has resumed all 23 domestic routes with 20-40 flights per day from 14-20 flights last month, while cabin factor in the fourth quarter is projected at more than 75% after airlines can unlock full capacity.

Vason Kittikul, president of the Thai Hotels Association's (THA) western chapter, said public concern over caseloads have slowed hotel bookings under the resumption of the subsidy scheme this month compared to the previous phases.

He said the occupancy rate for Cha-am was 10-20% in September, before gradually picking up to 50-60% and is estimated to hover around 60% this month.

Cha-am and Phetchaburi rely on meetings and seminars which recently were relaxed with more participants allowed, however, student field trips cannot operate as on-site schools have not yet resumed.

After We Travel Together, a 40% tourism subsidy scheme on hotels and air tickets, was launched on Oct 15, 139,233 rooms were booked from 2,706 hotels as of Oct 17.

Meanwhile the government already subsidised 515.3 million baht from overall 1.38 billion.

La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the THA's northern chapter, said demand from the tourism stimulus could not surge as there was weak purchasing power, while subsidy programmes are equipped with stringent preventive measures against fraud.

However, the situation was better than July-August during which occupancy rate plunged to nearly zero.

Mrs La-Iad said flight frequencies to Chiang Mai, which have been increased from 10 to 19-20 flights per day since Oct 15, not only helped improve connectivity but also lowered airfares to attract more travellers as airlines can maximise revenue through full-seat capacity.

She said the average occupancy in October is expected at 30%, particularly hotels on the outskirts which might see 40-50% occupancy.

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