Phuket saw an influx of travellers from India in the first six months of this year, accounting for 50% of foreign guests, but half of all hotels on the island remain closed as they await the start of high season.
Suksit Suvunditkul, president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said the hotel business in Phuket gradually picked up in the first half with an average occupancy rate of around 40% in May, mostly driven by travellers from India, Singapore, Australia and the UK.
He said the Indian market saw significant growth during this period with over 52,227 travellers from May 1 to June 25, more than twice the size of the Singapore market in second place with 19,298 travellers.
"The situation in Phuket has mostly returned to normal with tourists in some destinations, such as Patong, starting to take masks off after Thailand lifted the mandate last week. The spread of new subvariants doesn't impact sentiment at the moment," said Mr Suksit.
Meanwhile, the outlook for the Indian market in July remains strong with direct flights from Thai Smile Airways, Go First Airlines and Indigo Airlines connecting Phuket with key cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai.
In July, Phuket will have 15 airlines flying 58 direct flights to the island, bringing tourists from India, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Qatar, Israel and the UK, with an average load factor of 80%.
But since Thailand has been in low season since May, around 50% of Phuket hotels remain temporarily closed as demand from the long-haul market is softer.
THA expects most hotels on the island to resume business with the start of high season in October when European markets, particularly chartered flights from Russia, start to travel again.
He said that given Phuket received 3 million Chinese travellers in 2019, or one-third of all its foreign visitors, it was hard to see a strong recovery for all hotel segments without this market.
"Chinese travellers typically generated revenue in all types of hotels in all locations, ranging from three-star hotels to luxury resorts, which was different from European guests, who are the main market for beach resorts and luxury hotels. This meant the hotel industry recovery was uneven," said Mr Suksit.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Russian tour operators had told the agency that there was high demand in the eastern part of the country, led by Novosibirsk and Vladivostok, with at least 450,000 airline seats that are ready to take visitors to Thailand from October to December 2022.
However, as scheduled flights are still largely frozen due to the Russia-Ukraine war, TAT has to work with airlines to help connect those cities to Thailand on a chartered basis.