Centara worries high baht will drive tourists away
Centara Hotels & Resorts warned yesterday that the stronger baht would raise the cost of visiting Thailand and could push foreign tourists to other destinations.
Overall, the 2013 tourism outlook is bright with a target of 24 million foreign-tourist arrivals, but the baht's appreciation is threatening the industry's growth, said Thirayuth Chirathivat, chief executive officer of one of the country's leading hotel chains.
The country is competing not only with other nations in the region as a tourism destination, but also other continents. Europeans in particular may reconsider their plans to travel to Thailand and choose a cheaper nation with the same flying time.
Centara has yet to be hit by the strengthening baht, but will keep a closer look at the trend. Most of its income is in baht. The suitable rate for doing business is Bt30-Bt31 against the dollar, Thirayuth said.
The company operates more than 30 properties, five of them overseas. Four more will be added abroad via management contracts this year, including in Sri Lanka and Bali. For a planned launch in Egypt, Centara is in talks with the property owners.
This year will see 11 openings, both here and overseas, preferably by management contract. Annually, the company intends to introduce 10 properties.
Yesterday, Centara and Central Retail kicked off the "Centara the 1 Card" as part of the Central Group's plan to expand their customer bases. Cardholders can collect points and redeem them for a free stay at the various hotel brands, both domestic and international, including Centara Grand, Centara and Centra.
Central Retail has 4 million loyalty-club members and 80 per cent of them are active, while Centara has a million members and 30 per cent are domestic. The cards will generate rewards for members of both clubs.
The move was partly aimed at strengthening the performance of the hotel group, especially by boosting the number of Thai guests during the low season. Centara hopes its occupancy rate will improve to almost 80 per cent this year from 70 per cent in 2012.