Hua Hin targets wellness market as tourism tries to recover
Niche could be lucrative and includes destination weddings
The resort city of Hua Hin continues to emphasise its position as the country's prime wellness destination to capture demand from high-value tourists, creating a travel niche after two years of pandemic disruption.
"Consumer behaviour has shifted towards wellness tourism. This segment creates a huge opportunity to bring back potential tourists," said Krod Rojanastien, president of the Thai Spa Association and head of the Hua Hin Recharge scheme.
Tourism suppliers in Hua Hin, part of the Thailand Amazing Wellness Coast scheme, which is supervised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, are ready to establish themselves as a wellness hub after the Centre for Economic Situation Administration approved this initiative in January.
Other factors like natural resources and tourism activities could also help this area achieve its goal.
Watcharee Churugsa, assistant director-general at the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta), said the Thung Pradu community in Thap Sakae district, which is famous for sand spas and seaside scenery, could be another potential tourism site if it was well promoted.
Small quartz crystals found in the area are believed to help cleanse and release negative energy from the body. There are also recreational activities such as sailing, fishing and food tours.
Thung Pradu, one of 161 communities under Dasta's supervision since 2018, welcomed 822 tourists who generated 213,329 baht last year, compared with 156,480 baht in 2019.
Naowarat Arunkong, cluster general manager of Avani+ Hua Hin Resort and Anantara Hua Hin Resort, said local administrations, tourism-related agencies and operators in Hua Hin have worked together to promote the wellness destination.
In addition to wellness, Hua Hin is also a popular wedding destination. After a long pause of almost two years, the hotel expects to welcome a minimum of 10 couples in 2022 who could spend at least 3-6 million baht per event, she said.
The two hotels hope to see more tourists from the short-haul market starting in June if entry restrictions are lifted, said Ms Naowarat.
Mr Krod, also a consultant at Chiva-Som International Health Resort, said the Songkran holiday drove up the overall occupancy rate in April to 60-70%, from 50-60% last month.
The domestic market remains crucial to maintaining business in the low season.
The average occupancy rate for the long holiday on April 13-14 is above expectations as Hua Hin hotels are almost fully booked, said Udom Srimahachota, vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association's western chapter.
Local sentiment during Songkran has improved from last year, with a greater degree of confidence due to widespread vaccination. Some tourists started their road trip on April 10, choosing Hua Hin as a first stop before driving to southern provinces, said Mr Udom.
However, the last two weeks of April are projected to have an occupancy rate of only 20-30%, he said. Even if the country fully reopens in June, Thai tourism might not see an influx of tourists because it is the off-peak season, said Mr Udom.
"Government subsidies can stimulate tourism spending during these times, helping hoteliers maintain room rates," he said.