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SiteMinder survey ‘should bring hope to Thai hoteliers as kingdom’s tourism brand remains strong’

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With a fresh 120-day deadline in place to fully reopen Thailand, and the Phuket Sandbox initiative pushing ahead for a July 1 launch, a brighter future is coming into focus for hotels after a difficult 18 months, said Bradley Haines, Asia Pacific vice president at SiteMinder.

“SiteMinder’s World Hotel Index provides a daily overview of hotel booking activity in 40 markets around the world, and the story the current data is telling should provide Thai hoteliers a level of reassurance that normality may resume sooner than they expect,” he wrote in a press release.

Off the back of decreasing case numbers in 40 markets around the world, the vaccine rollout and loosening restrictions, hotel booking volumes globally are currently the highest they’ve been since the pandemic began, with reservations increasing more than 65 per cent of their 2019 levels, marking a 465-day high, Haines wrote.

There are four countries – The Cook Islands, Iceland, the Maldives and Mexico – that are exceeding their 2019 reservation volumes, and seven – Australia, Estonia, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and the US – that are now above 80 per cent, according to SiteMinder.

“A particularly interesting case study for Thailand, however, is the recovery of some European markets. The speed at which booking momentum has been able to evolve in certain countries has been fascinating to watch, and Spain comes to mind as a prime example,” he added.

At the beginning of April, Spanish booking momentum was at only around 38 per cent of 2019 levels, just 13 per cent above where Thailand is today. However, a wave of both domestic and now international bookings (Spain opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers on June 7 without the need to quarantine), has ensured that in just a matter of weeks, booking volumes to Spanish hotels are currently at 97 per cent of 2019 levels, a significant shift, SiteMinder’s index showed.

Another international example is the Cook Islands, which relies almost solely on foreign guests. There booking momentum recently jumped from 17 per cent (6 per cent below Thailand’s current volume) to 345 per cent of 2019 levels in a matter of days, after a quarantine-free travel bubble opened with New Zealand, Haines stated.

“Of course, Thailand and other parts of Asia experience their own unique challenges. Firstly, the road trips that many are able to take through Europe simply aren’t as possible in our region, and the role that domestic travel has played here has also been much less. The Cook Islands is a small island, so with limited supply it’s easier for things to quickly book out,” Haines wrote.

“However, what these examples do display is just how much pent up demand there currently is, and how quickly things can change if the destination market provides consumers with not just the inspiration to travel, but the opportunity to feel safe as they do,” he added.

SiteMinder survey ‘should bring hope to Thai hoteliers as kingdom’s tourism brand remains strong’

Thailand’s brand remains extremely strong

“Importantly, around the world, Thailand’s national tourism brand has managed to remain strong throughout the pandemic,” Haines wrote.

Data released by Skyscanner shows Bangkok has been the 11th most searched location in the world on their platform for the first four months of 2021. Similarly, figures from Agoda show Thailand is still on the radar of Chinese, Singaporean, Taiwanese, Australian, South Korean and Japanese tourists.

“The way that Thailand approached and controlled the initial outbreak garnered international praise in 2020, and the country has been widely touted as a success story. For this reason, international travellers remain eager to return, despite the current situation locally,” according to Haines.

SiteMinder survey ‘should bring hope to Thai hoteliers as kingdom’s tourism brand remains strong’

It’s important that hotels are ready to respond

“In recent days, there has been renewed urgency within the Thai government to reopen international travel when it’s possible to do so, meaning that once the future is more clearly defined, and the vaccine drive ramps up further, we can expect changes to take place very quickly.

“For this reason, it’s important for Thai hoteliers to be as ready as possible, and in tune with the current trends that have emerged throughout the pandemic, despite not currently being able to accept guests. What’s clear is that the traveller who walks through the door this year, or in 2022, will be very different to the traveller that last visited in 2019, or early 2020,” Haines emphasised.

“They will likely be more mobile-savvy, and will want to use their phone not just to book their trip, but for check-in, all communication and room controls, too. Their relationship to business travel may have also changed, and they may be adding a small amount of business to their leisure trip, rather than the other way around. And, they will likely have higher expectations across the board, for not only a cleaner space, but an experience that’s memorable and special too,” Haines wrote.

“Today, I would encourage all Thai hoteliers to step back, take in a wider perspective by looking at global data flows, and stay in tune with what’s happening in the broader hotel industry, as international guests may be returning to this much-loved country before we know it,” he added.

Published : June 23, 2021

By : The Nation