AQ hotels in Bangkok record uptick in demand
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AQ hotels in Bangkok record uptick in demand

Alternative quarantine (AQ) hotels in Bangkok are seeing more demand after the suspension of the Test & Go scheme, while some hoteliers prepare to become hospitels, providing beds as Covid-19 infections increase.

The average occupancy rate of AQ hotels has been rising from single digits in December to 10% in January, mainly driven by demand from business people or tourists who have family in Thailand, said Prin Pathanatham, president of Club Next Thailand, which was previously known as AQ Club Thailand.

Bookings for February are expected to exceed 15-20%, if the virus situation in Thailand and overseas remains stable and there is no change in travel rules, he said.

Vaccinated arrivals to Thailand have to undergo a seven-day quarantine in AQ facilities, unless they visit sandbox areas comprising Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga and Koh Samui.

Mr Prin said the number of AQ hotels in Bangkok recently increased to 153 from 144, but the number of rooms decreased to 14,000-15,000 rooms from 16,000 rooms as most of the AQ hotels shifted to a hybrid model for both Test & Go and quarantine.

Some AQ hotels, particularly those that have separate buildings, plan to serve as hospitels to respond to a surge in new infections.

Even though AQ hotels gain more revenue from room nights than they would with the Test & Go scheme, which requires a booking of only one night, hoteliers want the government to loosen travel regulations to generate more arrivals for the tourism sector, he said.

"With the Test & Go scheme suspended, the government has to consider opening a sandbox in Bangkok and nearby areas like Chon Buri and Hua Hin to create more opportunity," Mr Prin said.

He conceded sandbox areas contain risks because tourists are required to stay in the same area for a second test.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, deputy managing director at the Twin Towers Hotel Bangkok, said only 800 hospitel beds at the hotel were being occupied.

Most vaccinated patients developed milder symptoms when compared with the second wave, said Ms Supawan.

She said bed capacity in Bangkok might not reach the critical stage, unlike last year, as people have home isolation as another option.

Offering the hospitel service allows the hotel to stay afloat amid uncertainties following the suspension of Test & Go, said Ms Supawan.

Nattakorn Arunanondchai, managing director of Siam Mandarina Hotel, which operated under a hybrid format, said the occupancy rate this month stood at 80-90%, thanks to remaining guests under the Test & Go scheme.

However, bookings for the quarantine programme remain slow and difficult to predict, he said.

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