Hua Hin is likely to be the only one of the five destinations scheduled to reopen to vaccinated tourists on Oct 15 to reach the required inoculation rate of 70% for residents.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Hua Hin municipality and Nong Kae district are expected to reach the 70% vaccination target this Friday, with a soft opening plan slated for Oct 15.
Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Bangkok are scheduled to reopen on Nov 1 at the earliest.
Mr Yuthasak said the prime minister visited Phetchaburi yesterday to inspect the readiness of Cha-am, as the province wants to receive tourists directly from Suvarnabhumi airport under its programme called "Cha Am Sunshine".
If the reopening programme imposes strict travel screening and restrictions, as seen at Phuket checkpoints, it will affect the local market, which contributes around 75% of visitors to Hua Hin, because travel will be inconvenient, said Udom Srimahachota, vice-president of the western chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA).
Moreover, if Hua Hin can reopen together with nearby areas like Cha-am by Nov 1, travellers will have more travel choices during their trips, he said.
"A reopening date for these two areas of Nov 1 is more preferable as the Covid situation in the provinces should improve by that time," said Mr Udom.
Phisut Sae-Khu, president of THA's eastern chapter, said the short notice for reopening dates being pushed back will affect travel confidence and tourists might decide to visit other destinations instead.
He said operators are not anticipating a high volume of visitors this year as travellers from China and India still cannot visit the country.
Mr Phisut said the government should consider lifting the ban on group gatherings of more than 25 people for meetings and seminars to support hoteliers because the domestic meetings segment can help offset the lack of foreign visitors.
He said the local market can boost monthly occupancy to 30-40%.
Nantanittaya Sesaweech, assistant managing director of Horizon Village and Resort in Chiang Mai, said domestic travellers are the key market for the province, particularly with the reopening plan facing uncertainty because of the pandemic and the low level of vaccination.
Even though locals have weak purchasing power, the domestic meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector as well as expatriates are potential groups for Chiang Mai, which has plenty of co-working spaces and cafes, said Ms Nantanittaya.
She said the "workcation" trend also attracts long-stay guests from Bangkok, which help sustain occupancy at 20%.