Laguna banks on 'Phuket First October'
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Laguna banks on 'Phuket First October'

Chandran: Bullish on scheme
Chandran: Bullish on scheme

Laguna Phuket is hopeful the "Phuket First October" scheme can proceed as planned to restore the tourism market there in the fourth quarter.

Ravi Chandran, managing director of Laguna Phuket, said Phuket First October, a provincial plan to welcome international visitors by Oct 1 without quarantine, looks promising thanks to vaccine distribution.

Six months ago local sentiment was more apprehensive, said Mr Chandran.

With the vaccines getting more credibility and safety, locals will open up more to vaccinated tourists with no quarantine requirement, especially when people in the province also get inoculations.

Potential hotels in Laguna Phuket's sphere such as Banyan Tree Phuket are also looking for the opportunity to provide villa quarantine for international guests as the group has already discussed this with the Public Health Ministry.

"We would not do anything without getting local communities involved, so operators have to closely collaborate with communities and the government," he said.

Laguna Phuket is a resort consisting of seven hotels, of which five are owned properties, namely Angsana Laguna Phuket, Angsana Villas Resort Phuket, Banyan Tree Phuket, Cassia Phuket and Laguna Holiday Club Phuket Resort.

Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket and SAii Laguna Phuket are hotels under Dusit Thani and S Hotels & Resorts.

Mr Chandran said about 60% of revenue comes from hotels, while the rest comes from property sales. To project the growth, it will depend on how fast borders can reopen, vaccine efficacy and tourism demand which may take around 2-5 years to reach 2019's level.

The average occupancy rate for hotels in Laguna Phuket, except Laguna Holiday Club Phuket Resort which remains closed, dropped from 20-25% to 15% after a spike of new cases late last year.

The occupancy rate started to pick up to 18-20% in February and may reach 25-30% in April.

The business outlook this year will focus on the domestic market which accounted for 4-5% in the pre-Covid era. The group wants to increase this portion to 10-12%, while gearing up to the last quarter with the new flow of international arrivals.

"The key factors for tourism recovery are the vaccine rollouts and the readiness of Thailand with airports, hotels and staff ready for new service requirements," said Mr Chandran.

He said if borders open with reduced quarantine and the eligibility of vaccine passports, occupancy will shoot up as seen in the Maldives, compared to last year without vaccines when the group had to rely solely on domestic tourists during weekends.

Laguna Phuket along with other public and private enterprises will organise a tourism festival in Phuket from March 31 to April 18 to kick off tourism for the Songkran festival with more than 15,000 visitors expected.

Mr Chandran said the event will present the key message to the international market that Phuket is a safe destination to visit.

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