Positive sentiment predicted for Songkran fest
Domestic uptick expected for long holiday
Tourism operators expect improving domestic sentiment for the upcoming Songkran holiday despite a sagging economy and virus outbreak that continue to derail growth in the sector.
The festival and school holiday is a peak period for domestic tourism as families plan summer trips to beaches or nearby destinations, while millennials look to take part in the new trend of camping vacations, said Krit Patarapal, managing director of PK Exhibition, the organiser of the Thai Teaw Thai tourism fair.
He said tourism sentiment for Songkran remains positive as long as there is not another lockdown.
The Thai Teaw Thai fair features 650 tourism operators and expects to generate 100 million baht in transactions from March 3-6.
Mr Krit said spending might fall as operators offer cheaper prices or bundle packages with the government's stimulus measures.
Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air, said the Level 4 Covid-19 alert and high daily caseloads might impact travel sentiment, but rising new bookings show people are not panicking and have confidence in airlines' preventive measures as well as their own self-protection.
The airline's frequency during the first two months this year averaged 400 flights per week, with an average load factor of 80%.
Advance bookings for March already reached 40%, she said.
Ms Nuntaporn said March would be a buffer month to contain the virus before Songkran, when people will likely flock to hometowns even if water splashing is prohibited.
She said the government should not impose another lockdown, but if such a measure is necessary, the state should listen to the private sector before deciding on a course of action.
HOT DEAL SEEKERS
Local tourists, which contribute around 60-70% of revenue at Phuket-based tour operator Love Andaman, have shifted to last-minute deals to grab the cheapest prices.
Thais monitor possible government restrictions before making any Songkran decisions, said founder and chief executive Torphong Wongsathienchai.
Weaker purchasing power, higher operating costs and an intense price war have dampened domestic tourism, while demand is limited when compared with the available supply, he said.
Those with high spending power have shifted to overseas travel after more countries lifted travel restrictions.
Mr Torphong said his customers average 400-500 per day during weekends, or half the average pre-pandemic daily rate.
Popular routes include the Similan and Surin islands, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Khai and Maya Bay, as the bay opened for tourists on Jan 1 after being closed for 3½ years.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has directly affected tourism, with the cancellation of two familiarisation trips from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan planned for this month.
TESTING IS KEY
Mr Torphong said the Level 4 Covid-19 alert has been an obstacle to increasing tourism.
He suggested the government prepare enough hospitels and beds for Covid-19 patients as well as Favipiravir pills to let economic activity, especially from international arrivals, move forward and sustain the overall economy.
In addition to simplified travel rules, the government should allocate funding to establish RT-PCR mobile testing stations at major tourism destinations or famous beaches to facilitate visitors who are required to obtain negative tests before returning home, said Mr Torphong.
PK Exhibition's Mr Krit said provinces with plenty of Covid-19 testing sites will have an advantage in attracting tourists. International hotel chains offer a complimentary antigen test kit service to guests before checking in.
"The best way to carry out the marketing plan is to ensure the highest level of safety, which can build confidence and attract tourists without using a pricing strategy," Mr Krit said.