The festive season in the final quarter is expected to bring hotel bookings in Phuket that match pre-Covid levels, but not every hospitality segment will reap benefits, according to the Phuket Hotels Association.
Bjorn Courage, president of the association, said the average occupancy rate is picking up for November and December as well as the first quarter next year, driven by individual travellers, group meetings and Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions).
He said even though its main markets like China and Russia haven't rebounded, the Indian market still has strong growth along with the Middle East, Israel and Singapore.
Strong performance in the first and second quarters this year came from the momentum carried from the reopening initiative called the Phuket Sandbox in July last year, when competitors remained closed.
Meanwhile, Phuket is a destination that travellers can fly to directly from many cities.
However, bookings in the third quarter have been slower compared to the first half as many other destinations have opened up.
According to STR Global, which collected data from international hotel chains in Phuket, the occupancy rate is under 50% at the moment.
He said since there were less chartered flights to Phuket, hotels relying on groups are still having a hard time, in contrast to four- and five-star hotels that could do better than others.
Speaking at PHIST5 -- the fifth annual event featuring hoteliers and stakeholders in Asia to discuss sustainability -- Mr Courage said the island also has to face the most critical challenge, which is a labour shortage during the upcoming high season.
Many employees left the province for better jobs after their salaries were cut and had a lower service charge, which used to form a big part of their income.
"A lot of people are still waiting to make sure Phuket is going to be consistent after this," he said. "I do not believe that most hotels will go back to the number of staff they used to have."
Mr Courage suggested hotels save expenses by upskilling staff, training them to be more productive and efficient during the same working hours.
They also have to attract new talent, such as by holding job fairs at universities and should try to reconnect with former employees to lure them back.
Phuket relied on international visitors as the main target before the pandemic.
Mr Courage said the good part of the viral situation is that many local tourists visited the island more often.
Prior to Covid-19, they mostly opted for overseas destinations instead of travelling to Phuket.
"Hopefully, in the future, people are going to make a combination, they may go overseas, but also travel domestically," said Mr Courage.
Thailand might heavily rely on inbound tourism, but domestic tourism can help Phuket in particular as they can travel regardless of the season.
Despite challenging factors, he expected a successful high season this year because the island is ready to welcome guests, especially those who have not travelled for a long time.