Thailand has gradually opened up for international vaccinated tourists from July this year. We have covered all the twists and turns surrounding Phuket’s Sandbox and the opening number of regions from today.
Thailand is a very popular tourist destination from Europe, North America, and Asia based on the comments and interest from our readers for the pieces we have published.
I would like to see that everyone has their expectations set right if they travel to Thailand in the coming months.
The tourism sector has been essentially decimated in both Koh Samui and Phuket. I would estimate that 90% to 95% if not more tourism-related businesses were temporarily or permanently closed on these islands back in September.
Bangkok is such a cosmopolitan and huge city that tourists are never as important outside of the international five-star hotels and specific shopping areas. The shopping malls I visited in central Bangkok were much quieter than usual, partially due to the nightly curfew last month.
Most of the hotels that I stayed at had been temporarily closed during the pandemic. Only the Athenee Hotel in Bangkok had stayed open the entire time.
I had plenty of chats with the employees at several hotels, and I felt that they were genuinely happy to see some of their past guests finally returning.
We have covered the pricing of the hotels in Bangkok previously, but in general, it went as follows:
1. Luxury hotels have lowered their pricing by 20% to 30% (think of Park Hyatt, Waldorf Astoria, St Regis, Plaza Athenee, and others).
2. Business hotels were off by 40% to 50% (think of Grand Hyatt, Marriott Surawongse, etc.).
3. Large Tourist hotels off by 70% (think of Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Conrad, Hilton Sukhumvit, etc.).
Some hotels were closed entirely, such as the Rosewood (must have been due to financial issues because it closed this past September, and based on my discussions, it was intended to be closed for at least a year), while others were housing quarantined tourists.
Then some hotels were partially open, such as Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit (only two floors) and Marriott Queens Park (one tower closed).
During my trip, the hotels that I stayed at (DoubleTree Phuket, Hilton Phuket, Hyatt Regency Koh Samui, Conrad Koh Samui, Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui, Athenee Bangkok) Courtyard Bangkok, St Regis, Marriott Surawongse, and Conrad Bangkok) all provided acceptable, sound, or exceptional service.
I probably wouldn’t have stayed at the two Hilton properties in Phuket if not for the “quarantine.” My plan was also to visit Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit and Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park hotels, but they could not provide suite upgrades, so I stayed elsewhere.
The pricing of hotels in Bangkok have led to a very high number of elite member, and some have been promoting getting Marriott Bonvoy Platinum in 15 nights (no brainer – really). Then the guest mix at the hotels that have discounted the most is not what it was previously because you can get a full-service hotel at the price of budget accommodation.
Also, these hotels will have issues attracting enough employees back once the business picks up, as many have been laid off and perhaps pursued other careers.
Worth Visiting Thailand?
I would say yes. You need to accept that your preferred restaurant, shop, or other business that mainly cater to tourists may no longer be in business.
Nature is always there if you go to one of the beach destinations, and better to visit now when the masses are still not present. The good quality hotels are 30% to 50% off what you would usually pay for them, or offer various packages with suite upgrades and Food and Beverage credits.
It isn’t easy to believe that it is already three weeks since I left Thailand after forty days in the country (longest stay ever). For me, it was difficult to enjoy Phuket, but things and hotels got better in Koh Samui and Bangkok.
I wouldn’t hesitate to visit Thailand now if your primary purpose is to enjoy the beaches and nature. However, if you are more into February 2020 Thailand with plenty of bars and night venues for visitors open, I would postpone it.
Thailand’s tourism sector has always promptly bounced back from the previous challenges, from floodings in Bangkok to closed airports due to demonstrations, but it won’t happen as fast this time around.
I would expect Thailand to attract more visitors with this “test to release” scheme requiring you to stay at the designated hotel until the initial PCR-RT test has come through than via the Sandboxes. Still, it is nowhere near the previous numbers.
The hotel and other deals won’t go away anytime soon until all the Asian tourists are back (difficult to see mainland China + Hong Kong with zero covid policies to open up before 2023).
It is undoubtedly a good start for Thailand after the sandbox trials to open up the country more, and I plan to be back in March next year. After that, let’s see how long it will take for Malaysia and Indonesia to develop coherent policies to open their countries for visitors.