High season ends early
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High season ends early

Test & Go halt sees mass cancellations

The subdued atmosphere at Suvarnabhumi airport on Dec 7 following the detection of Omicron variant in Thailand. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
The subdued atmosphere at Suvarnabhumi airport on Dec 7 following the detection of Omicron variant in Thailand. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Tourism operators in popular destinations face more cancellations as the prolonged suspension of the Test & Go scheme is dampening enthusiasm for the remainder of the high season.

Pongsakorn Ketprapakorn, president of the Tourism Council of Phangnga, said around 60% of bookings in January from 36 Phangnga hotels have been cancelled. Hotels have already lost more than 100 million baht, he said.

Travel agents in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, have pivoted to other destinations such as Vietnam, Bali and the Maldives as the Test & Go suspension is likely to be extended until at least the end of this month.

The average occupancy rate hit 50-60% late last year, before collapsing to 20-30% now, said Mr Pongsakorn.

He said even if the scheme resumes in February, foreigners are unlikely to return until March as they have to plan trips and apply for Thailand Pass, which is a time-consuming process.

"If more sandbox areas cannot be opened during the suspension of Test & Go, we might lose the high season opportunity and have to wait until the end of the year," Mr Pongsakorn said.

The cancellation rate in Krabi increased by 30% from the end of December to January, and there are no new bookings because of the Test & Go suspension and the viral outbreak overseas, said Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi.

She said the average occupancy rate is now 20%, but more guests will cancel their plans if Krabi is not included in the sandbox areas.

Most tourists have opted for refunds for their plane tickets and hotel room bookings because it is easier than applying for the Phuket sandbox programme, said Ms Charintip.

She said the hotel business will hit rock bottom this month, with single-digit occupancy rates as seen prior to the country's reopening. Bookings in February and March hover around 35-40%.

Ms Charintip said hoteliers may not see new bookings in the next two months without the resumption of the Test & Go scheme.

Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the Thai Hotels Association's eastern chapter, said the government should open the Thailand Pass system for tourists to pre-register under Test & Go.

Tourists should be able to plan their trips and enter the country later when the pandemic situation improves, which is a better option for the industry than cancelling their plans, he said.

The average hotel occupancy rate for Pattaya in January will not exceed 30% because of weak tourism sentiment, said Mr Phisut.

A viral surge in Chon Buri also worsened the situation for domestic tourism as hotels received more cancellations.

He said his association is amassing 5,000 rooms to act as hotel isolation facilities or "hospitels" in order to help curb the infection rate.

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