TOURISM IN THE northern and southern regions of the country in the final quarter of this year shows signs of being solid, with high rates of advance hotel bookings from foreigners.
In Chiang Mai, 40-50 per cent of hotels have received forward bookings for the quarter, while in Phuket the rate is allegedly 70-80 per cent.
Suchart Hirankanokkul, president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, said the tourism outlook for Phuket during the holiday season in the fourth quarter was upbeat. The THA is optimistic of achieving its projection of a 5-to-10-per-cent increase in revenue and foreign arrivals to the resort island compared with the final three months of last year.
Even though the economy in Europe is still in trouble, Suchart believes the flow of European tourists will continue, with a slight reduction in spending if people tighten their budgets with shorter stays.
Hoteliers on the island are making preparations to keep tourists coming. They plan to promote additional services such as spas and free extra nights for tourists who stay three days.
But few are raising room rates because of the country’s higher prices overall and uncertainties plaguing the global economy.
During the approaching high season, Suchart projected occupancy rates of more than 80 per cent, up from 70 per cent in the same period last year.
Phunut Thanalaopanich, president of the THA’s northern chapter, said Chiang Mai was the tourism destination of choice for Chinese nationals because it offered affordable trips, abundant culture and natural beauty.
Advance bookings by Chinese tourists via tour agents for the high season are currently more than 40 per cent, and this figure is projected to double.
During the period, its occupancy rate is expected to increase to 90 per cent, up from between 80 and 85 per cent in the same period last year.
Room rates in the northern province are also expected to increase by about 10 per cent, especially among four- and five-star hotels, for the first time in three years. At present, there are 41,000 rooms in Chiang Mai.
Phunut said tourism in Chiang Mai had become active throughout the year thanks to the inflow of Chinese tourists. As a result, its average hotel occupancy rate is projected at 65-70 per cent in 2013.
“It seems that there is no low season in Chiang Mai now. The arrival of Chinese helps spur the local tourism scene,’’ he said.
However, he said room rates were not rising much because serviced apartments had stolen hotels’ guests by offering cheaper rates of Bt250-Bt300 a night.
After October 1, however, Phunut and Suchart agreed that the number of Chinese tourists using tour agencies could drop slightly because of a new law aimed at unfair practices by tour agents in their country. The effects of this on the Thai market will become clearer over the next three months.
However, Suchart said any decline in Chinese tourists would be offset by the rising number of independent travellers.
Meanwhile, hoteliers have been facing higher operating costs. Increased taxes on alcohol have caused operators to see falling margins for beverage services. As a result, they are being more cautious when designing their marketing strategies to ensure long-term survival.