Phuket expects 1m arrivals in first quarter
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Phuket expects 1m arrivals in first quarter

Prediction assumes plentiful booster jabs

Tourists enjoy a stroll along Patong beach in Phuket, as tourism starts to pickup for the upcoming high season. Dusida Worrachaddejchai
Tourists enjoy a stroll along Patong beach in Phuket, as tourism starts to pickup for the upcoming high season. Dusida Worrachaddejchai

Phuket tourism operators expect the country's reopening to help build momentum for 1 million international arrivals in the first quarter of next year.

"Bookings in November increased by 20%, while the load factor for some international flights will also rise to 80% thanks to fewer travel rules for low-risk countries and the winter season," said Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.

At present, 825 international flights from 17 airlines are scheduled to arrive in Phuket in November, compared to 562 flights from 11 airlines in October.

Under the regulations of the certificate of entry (CoE), which is still the active system for tourists while the Thailand Pass is not yet ready, guests can make reservations up to 30 days in advance. Thus the occupancy rate this month could gradually improve to 25-30% from 18-20% in October, before increasing to 35% in December.

However, Mr Bhummikitti said room rates had returned to 60% of pre-pandemic prices during year-end holidays, which is lower than destinations like Bangkok and northern provinces, which have more of a balanced supply and demand.

Assuming the overseas viral situation remains under control during winter, while most Phuket residents receive booster doses, the holiday island predicts it will welcome 1 million travellers, or 40% of the 3 million seen in the first quarter of 2019.

Russia and India are potential markets which operators must largely do without until they are added to the list of low-risk countries.

Mr Bhummikitti said that even though Russia has recently seen spiking caseloads, Phuket has confidence in its safety protocols, with only 0.3% of arrivals testing positive for the virus over the past four months.

Phuket governor Narong Woonciew said the province has prepared the public health system for the worst-case scenario as the number of available beds remains at 60%, while the vaccination rate for booster jabs has surpassed 50% of the population.

Meanwhile, La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association's northern chapter, said the occupancy rate for Chiang Mai in October was 40% in the city and 60% on the outskirts.

The occupancy rates are expected to grow by 15-20% in the last two months of the year, mainly driven by the domestic market.

However, forward bookings from international guests have not yet materialised in great numbers as tourists are waiting for the Thailand Pass system -- a simpler entry registration -- to be activated.

Mrs La-Iad said South Korea's Jeju Air wanted to conduct chartered flights in November, while regular Korean Air flights to Chiang Mai are scheduled from Dec 25, with two flights per week.

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