Investment in new hotels in Thailand is expected to slow next year as many key players concentrate on newly opened markets to cash in on the opening of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), according to the president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA).
However, Thailand will remain one of the most attractive destinations in the region, with expectation of 28 million arrivals, up from a revised target of 25 million to 26 million this year.
THA president Surapong Techaruvichit said the formulation of the AEC next year would have both positive and negative impacts on the Thai tourism sector. On the negative side, new investment here will likely slow compared with earlier decades when hundreds of hotels opened. Operators, especially international chains, are now seeing big opportunities in other countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.
In Laos alone, international brands such as Ramada, InterContinental, Crown Plaza, Sofitel and Marriott are set to open doors in Vientiane by 2019. Mercure, Ibis and Best Western are already there.
Investors from Thailand, Singapore, and other countries are also moving to newly opened markets including Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“Many new international and local hotels have already opened in the Thai market. It’s time to expand into neighbouring countries,” Surapong said.
In the meantime, he said, the Thai tourism sector would gain a lot benefit from the AEC as many skilled workers would come in to fill jobs where local labour is in short supply, such as housekeeping, as well as medium and high management.
“Local workers need to improve their skills, especially languages,” Surapong added.
Thanate Vorasaran, vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, warned that illegal workers from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Pakistan might arrive in increasing numbers after the AEC takes effect.