January 16, 2014 00:00
By SAWITREE RINWONG,
MANY HOTELS in areas near anti-government demonstrations have launched promotions, especially discounts, to attract protesters participating in the "Bangkok shutdown", to compensate for a significant drop in foreign tourists coming to the city.
Centara Hotels has reduced the room rates of its four major hotels by 40 per cent to about Bt3,100, including breakfast, down from Bt5,000 per night.
Novotel Bangkok Siam Square is offering a special discount price of Bt2,200 per night for an overnight room, and Bt1,500 for daytime stays until 6pm. This promotional rate excludes breakfast and will run until the end of this month.
Supawan Tanomkieatipume, chairwoman for public relations at the Thai Hotels Association, who is also executive assistant manager of sales and marketing at the Twin Towers Hotel, said many hotel operators, especially near rally sites such as Pathumwan, had adjusted their business strategies by cutting costs as much as possible.
She said the Twin Towers Hotel, which is in Pathumwan, had gradually cut temporary staff, especially in the catering area. The hotel normally employs more than 20 temporary staff for each function event. However, the permanent staff of 400 has been maintained as per normal.
“We normally have occupancy rates of 70-80 per cent on average in the first quarter. However, it has plunged to between 40 and 60 per cent currently. We expect to lose between 10-20 per cent in sales opportunities per month if the Bangkok shutdown is prolonged.
“The hotel industry will enter the low season in the second quarter, so attractive promotions to lure Thai customers should be a necessity at this time of political difficulty. This is to compensate for a significant drop in foreign tourists,” Supawan said.
She said promotions to attract protesters should be another strategy for hotel operators at the demonstration locations to boost sales and reduce business losses during the shutdown period.
Despite the woes of some Bangkok hotels, however, the Kingdom’s overall tourism industry has not suffered too badly since the shutdown started on Monday, the Tourism Authority of Thailand revealed. This is evidenced by a continuing flow of foreign arrivals, especially to major provinces.
In the first two weeks of January, foreign arrivals at Suvarnabhumi International Airport dropped by 2.58 per cent to 604,189 compared with the same period last year, but those at Don Meuang International Airport actually grew by 4.77 per cent to 71,907, thanks to low-cost carriers. In the period from January 1-12, foreign arrivals at Phuket International Airport also grew, by 12.06 per cent to 124,246 year on year.
However, there is no guarantee this trend will continue if the political conflict gets worse with the onset of violence between the anti- and pro-government sides.
Sugree Sithivanich, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said travellers from Hong Kong were the most worrying group. About 40 per cent of tour packages for Chinese New Year from that city have reportedly been cancelled.
As for mainland Chinese, they have changed their trips to avoid protest-hit Bangkok, heading to Pattaya, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai instead.
Hong Kong has also maintained its travel warning on Thailand at Level 4 (the second-highest), “reconsider your need to travel”.
Interestingly, some Chinese have chosen to travel by car from southern locations such as Kunming and Chengdu to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Phitsanulok.
The flow of Russian and European tourists is stable. Europeans have continued heading to beach resorts in the south on direct flights from their home nations and also via Bangkok. As for Russians, they are avoiding Bangkok and heading to Pattaya, Phuket or Krabi.