Omicron surge stymies domestic travel

Omicron surge stymies domestic travel

Tourists surrounded by flowers at Mon Jodd in Chiang Mai.  (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
Tourists surrounded by flowers at Mon Jodd in Chiang Mai.  (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

Domestic travel sentiment remains weak amid a five-digit surge in daily cases and higher commodity prices, despite incentives like the We Travel Together hotel subsidy scheme and local events aimed at generating more trips.

"Bookings from the fourth phase of the stimulus haven't yet picked up as strong as hoteliers expected due to Omicron concerns," said La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association's (THA) northern chapter.

Covid-19 cases have exceeded 10,000 infections per day over the past week, with 14,900 cases and 26 fatalities recorded on Monday.

Mrs La-Iad said response to the new phase of the scheme was significantly weaker compared to the previous phases, with only 300,000 room nights utilised nationwide during the first week of the campaign.

As of Feb 13, 471,310 rooms from an additional 2 million room nights had been booked.

The average occupancy rate for January and February had been expected to stand at 55%, from the overall 70% or 40,000 hotel rooms in Chiang Mai that are open at the moment.

However, the spread of the Omicron variant hammered the occupancy rate to less than 20% in January.

Mrs La-Iad said the impact clouds the outlook for this month with bookings at around 20%, even though the province is hosting Chiang Mai Blooms 2022, an annual flower festival, from Feb 1 to March 15.

She said the number of passengers at Chiang Mai airport on Feb 1 had dropped to 4,000-5,000 per day from 7,000-8,000 per day in November and December last year, while the high price of oil had hit demand among visitors who planned to travel by car.

Vason Kittikul, president of the THA's western chapter, said the occupancy rate for Cha-am might be lower than 50% in February, which was mainly attributed to soaring infections and low purchasing power.

The resort city saw 30%-40% occupancy at weekends, compared to 10%-20% on weekdays. Most guests were attending meetings or seminars organised by private companies.

Mr Vason said the number of state agencies visiting were very few, although the work-from-home policy was lifted at the end of January.

Phetchaburi plans to hold the Phra Nakhon Khiri-Muang Phet Fair from Feb 18-27 to spur tourism demand.

However, forward bookings are yet to be seen as domestic travellers tend to make last-minute decisions based on the viral situation.

Mr Vason said bookings would gather pace in March and April as there are long holidays during which families would plan trips by using privileges from the stimulus campaign during that period.

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