Loei welcomes long cool season travel bonanza

A popular night walking street in Chiang Khan district in Loei province. (Photo by Sarot Meksophawannkul)

The expectation of an early and long cool season has driven tourism in Loei province, most notably in Chiang Khan where accommodation on weekends over the fourth quarter this year is fully booked.

Chiang Khan has about 3,000 rooms at hotels and resorts, many sitting on the banks of the Mekong River across from Laos.

These rooms have been reserved quickly this year, compared with a low occupancy rate of below 50% during the off-peak season, said Kritchanat Kulratchahirun, president of the Loei Tourism Business Association.

Tourism trade at other destinations in the province such as Phu Ruea and Phu Kradueng should be brisk as well after the Meteorological Department forecast a colder and longer cool season from Oct 17 through the end of February next year.

The weather could attract many groups of travellers, including families, millennials, and company trips.

Operators are exploring marketing for visitors from the incentive segment, he said.

Mr Kritchanat conceded most of the 6,000 hotel rooms in the province are substandard and are not attracting foreign travellers.

He said most foreign visitors are from Luang Prabang and Sainyabuli in Laos, and they preferred destinations such as Chiang Khan and Phu Ruea during the New Year.

They also enjoy nearby provinces including Udon Thani and Nong Khai.

Thanawan Kasee, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Loei office, said tourism in the province has been on the rise, especially during the three-day holiday weekend of Oct 12-14.

A total of 42,487 tourists visited Loei during the period, a 3.77% rise year-on-year, generating 59.6 million baht tourism income, up 8.39%.

Average spending for that period stood at 1,187 baht per person per day, while the occupancy rate for hotels in Loei stood at 70.2%.

Phu Kradueng, which opened to visitors on Oct 1, has welcomed some 3,000 visitors staying overnight, up from 2,000, Ms Thanawan said.

In the first nine months of this year, Loei province, one of the 55 second-tier provinces, welcomed 1.7 million tourists, a decrease of 9.2%.

There were 1.67 million Thai visitors and 28,262 foreigners.

Tourism receipts over the period stood at 5.5 billion baht, slightly down from 5.51 billion last year.

Ms Thanawan hopes visitor numbers will pick up in the final quarter because of the cooler weather, boosting arrivals by 3% from 2.64 million last year.

She is aiming for a 10% gain in income from 7.8 billion baht in 2018.