Europeans drive up room rates in the South

Europeans drive up room rates in the South

Phangnga pundit bullish on Q1

Tourists take in the view at Talay Waek ('Separated Sea') in Krabi province. (Photo: Bangkok Post file photo)
Tourists take in the view at Talay Waek ('Separated Sea') in Krabi province. (Photo: Bangkok Post file photo)

Longer stays from European guests helped drive room revenue in the first quarter in southern provinces, as room rates set a new record despite a small number of Chinese tourists.

"The first quarter of this year will likely be the best high season in five years," said Pongsakorn Ketprapakorn, former president of the Tourism Council of Phangnga.

Mr Pongsakorn said many hotels in the province, especially in Khao Lak, can charge higher room rates of between 6,000-10,000 baht per night, exceeding the average of 5,000 baht in 2019, which was a peak tourism year for Thailand.

The majority of tourists are Germans, Scandinavians and Russians, who opted for the province's serene nature experience and stayed for weeks to a month.

So far, hotels have been recording more than a 90% occupancy rate, or are even fully booked, while guests are also spending more on food and other services in the hotels.

Although the Chinese market recorded the largest number of arrivals in Thailand, with over 987,000 of 5.2 million tourists, Phangnga rarely gained this market, said Mr Pongsakorn.

Many Chinese tourists opt for more lively and urban experiences, such as Phuket and Bangkok, instead of a nature-oriented destination like Phangnga. The Chinese contributed only 5-10% of the foreign tourist market for the province, he said.

This year, Phangnga will also host the tourism trade show Thailand Travel Mart Plus, an annual trade event organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand between June 5-7.

Charintip Tiyaphorn, owner of Pimalai Resort and Spa at Koh Lanta of Krabi, said that during this high season, its villa room type, covering 200 square metres, has sold faster than deluxe rooms, sized 48 sq m, showing a strong demand from high-end tourists from Europe and the US.

Ms Charintip said this helped to push its average room rate in January across all room types above 9,000 baht, exceeding the 2019 level, while the occupancy rate stood at over 90%.

Long-haul guests tend to stay 7-10 days at the resort, and are spending more at bars and dining at resorts' outlets or joining local activities on the island.

Ms Charintip said the resort did not see many Chinese guests, even during the Chinese New Year holiday, since it was fully occupied by long-haul guests for 150-180 days ahead, while Chinese and other Asian markets tend to book with a shorter lead time.

Sasithorn Kittidhrakul, president of the Krabi Tourism Association, said Krabi still lacks direct flights from China, which previously had services from 5-6 Chinese cities before the pandemic.

However, the province now has charter flights from Stockholm, Warsaw and Prague, with regular scheduled flights from major markets like Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia.

Ms Sasithorn said the top markets for Krabi at present were Sweden, Malaysia, Poland and the UK. All of them had higher expenditure, resulting in 20-30% higher room rates than in 2019.

She said the association and tourism operators in Krabi will join the global trade show ITB Berlin 2024 in March, in order to attract travellers, especially the European market, through sustainable tourism and hot spring attractions.

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