Lux­ury Thai ho­tels open­ing amid pan­demic bet on 5-star quar­an­tine

Business World - - Property & Infrastruc­ture -

A SLEW of lux­ury ho­tels open­ing in Thai­land amid the pan­demic are pin­ning their hopes on a gov­ern­ment plan to lure high­spend­ing tourists, bet­ting those seek­ing five-star quar­an­tine will help cush­ion the dev­as­ta­tion wrought on the travel in­dus­try.

About half-a-dozen lux­ury ho­tels that opened in Bangkok dur­ing the pan­demic, or will open soon, from Four Sea­sons, Kempin­ski and Capella are likely to ben­e­fit from a new visa aimed at at­tract­ing long-stay vis­i­tors, high-spenders and med­i­cal trav­el­ers to put the econ­omy back on a growth track.

While Thai­land has weath­ered the virus out­break bet­ter than most other South­east Asia na­tions, it is faced with one of its worst re­ces­sions on record be­cause of the loss of tourists, who in 2019 pumped $62 bil­lion into the econ­omy.

Tar­get­ing lux­ury trav­el­ers who stay longer and spend more could staunch some of those losses, said Deepak Ohri, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Le­bua Ho­tels & Re­sorts. “The pan­demic has given Thai­land the op­por­tu­nity to hit re­set on how the tourism in­dus­try will look af­ter COVID-19,” he said in an in­ter­view.

Start­ing this month, tourists with the new visa will be al­lowed into Thai­land for the first time since bor­ders closed in late March. They will be re­quired to stay at least 90 days, in­clud­ing a manda­tory 14-day quar­an­tine, which can be served in a lux­ury ho­tel. Af­ter that, they will be free to travel any­where they want.

“These groups of trav­el­ers have the high­est po­ten­tial of in­creas­ing money spent on lodg­ing and din­ing, which can help boost the econ­omy, es­pe­cially dur­ing these dif­fi­cult pan­demic times,” said Yuthasak Su­pa­sorn, the head of the Tourism Author­ity of Thai­land. “We have about 800 to 1,000 Chi­nese tourists who are ready to travel here on pri­vate jets in the first phase of re­open­ing.”

Even so, the gov­ern­ment, which used to worry about the ef­fects of over-tourism, ex­pects about 1,200 vis­i­tors a month to use the new visa, gen­er­at­ing about 1.2 bil­lion baht ($38 mil­lion) in rev­enue — a frac­tion of the amount spent by mass­mar­ket hol­i­day­mak­ers. A ma­jor­ity of Thais don’t agree with the plan to open the bor­ders, a sur­vey showed Wed­nes­day.

“It’s a good start­ing ini­tia­tive to fo­cus on qual­ity in­stead of quan­tity, but it won’t be enough to make up for the lost rev­enue,” said Som­prawin Man­prasert, chief econ­o­mist at Bank of Ayud­hya Pcl. “Tax mea­sures aimed at mid­dle- to high-in­come Thais to pro­mote spend­ing would help in­ject more money into the econ­omy.”

The Capella opened on Oct. 1, making it the lat­est of sev­eral lux­ury ho­tels that have en­tered the mar­ket since the pan­demic be­gan. Be­fore COVID-19, the ho­tel was ex­pect­ing up to 90% of rev­enue to come from for­eign trav­el­ers. Next door, The Four Sea­sons is set to open by yearend. This fol­lows other top-end ho­tels such as the Rose­wood and the Siam Kempin­ski Sind­horn.

AN­DRE MALERBA/BLOOMBERG

EM­PLOY­EES wear pro­tec­tive masks while work­ing at the Sky Bar at Le­bua at State Tower, op­er­ated by Le­bua Ho­tels & Re­sorts Co., in Bangkok, Thai­land on Oct. 1.

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