Operators await restart date of October 15
Domestic tourism will remain the priority in the fourth quarter, writes Dusida Worrachaddejchai
Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass offers tourists a luxury “glamping” camping experience, which many travelers find appealing in an age of social distancing.
The tentative date to restart domestic tourism on October 15 is expected to heighten sentiment and support the economy after travel activity has frozen following an increase in Covid-19 cases for much of this year.
Tourism operators do not anticipate a strong rebound in the fourth quarter, with the bulk of trips made by state agencies, one of the segments least affected by the pandemic, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT).
Domestic tourism figures peaked during the pandemic in November and December 2020, but only a few provinces have health and safety measures in place to insure local travelers at this stage of the pandemic, Mr Thanapol said.
ADT plans to offer medical cannabis tours to major destinations in the northeast, including Sakon Nakhon, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Udon Thani, as part of the upcoming Tour Teaw Thai program, a travel grant organized sponsored by the government.
He said cannabis tourism is expected to play a crucial role in boosting tourism demand, as Thais are eager to try new things, especially when cannabis is legalized in the country.
During the coming high season, locals want to travel to southern beach destinations where most residents are fully vaccinated, Mr Thanapol said.
He said that aside from international tourists, local travelers can support the local economy in sandbox areas as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed.
Torphong Wongsathienchai, founder and managing director of Love Andaman, a tour operator based in Phuket, said new products have been prepared for the upcoming peak season, such as day boat trips from Phuket to the Phangnga Islands and from Krabi, as well as tour packages for Koh Lipe and Koh Kradan in Trang.
However, different travel restrictions in each province and unclear regulations in national parks, which could suddenly close at any time without warning, are barriers to conducting interprovincial travel, he said.
The company plans to monitor the situation before launching new routes, Torphong said.
Although 80% of Love Andaman’s customers were foreigners before the pandemic, the local market now accounts for 60-70% of the market share in the Andaman provinces.
Mr Thanapol says local travelers can support the local economy in sandbox areas as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed. Dusida Worrachaddejchai
He said tour sales rates were low during the recent wave of the virus and would not pick up significantly after restrictions were eased this month.
Mr Torphong said that although domestic flights have resumed, there is uncertainty over provincial entry rules, making tourists reluctant to plan their trips.
Tour operators cannot prepare long-term business plans as regulations change regularly, he said.
One of the challenges associated with the rebound in domestic tourism is the low purchasing power of consumers amid the protracted epidemic, which makes locals cautious about travel spending, Torphong said.
“Strong domestic demand in the fourth quarter will rely heavily on mass vaccination, which encourages fully vaccinated travelers to go out and spend, as seen in the United States,” he said.
If the government can effectively administer a mass vaccination campaign in the last four months of this year, it will boost travel sentiment for December and early next year, Torphong said.
While tourists opt for road trips to avoid the inconvenience of air travel during a pandemic, destinations near Bangkok such as Kanchanaburi may benefit, Suwimol Ngamsriviroj, general manager and sales manager of Hintok River Camp, said in Hellfire Pass.
As more and more people stayed at home during the outbreak, camping is an activity that gives tourists a sense of freedom when surrounded by nature, Ms. Suwimol said.
Social networks have popularized the trend of “glamping”, which combines camping and luxury accommodation.
She said tourists always want to maintain social distancing, so they prefer private glamping sites to avoid crowded places.
The camp was full for the weekends after restrictions were eased on September 1, Ms. Suwimol said.
“We have been living with the pandemic for almost two years,” she said.
“We can adapt to protect ourselves and hit the road when the situation allows.”
Although the tent complex temporarily closed in August to comply with public health checks, occupancy throughout the recent wave has risen to 60% on weekends and 10% in week.
The resort has offered discounts of more than 50% off pre-pandemic prices to attract local customers, and it has invested more in health and safety measures, Ms. Suwimol said.
The average occupancy rate for the next peak season is expected to reach 40%, which is the break-even point, she said.