Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass offers tourists a ‘glamping’ luxury camping experience, which many travellers find appealing in an era of social distancing.
The tentative date to restart domestic tourism on Oct 15 is expected to lift sentiment and bolster the economy after travel activities have been frozen following a surge in Covid-19 cases for much of this year.
Tourism operators are not anticipating a strong rebound in the fourth quarter, with the bulk of trips taken by state agencies, one of the segments least affected by the pandemic, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT).
Domestic tourism figures peaked during the pandemic in November and December 2020, but only a few provinces have the health and safety measures in place to assure local travellers at this point in the pandemic, said Mr Thanapol.
ADT plans to feature medical cannabis tour packages to top destinations in the Northeast, including Sakon Nakhon, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Udon Thani, as part of the upcoming Tour Teaw Thai scheme, a tour package subsidy sponsored by the government.
He said cannabis tourism should play a crucial role in spurring tourism demand as Thais are eager to try new things, especially when cannabis is legalised in the country.
During the upcoming high season, locals want to go to southern beach destinations where most of the residents are fully inoculated, said Mr Thanapol.
He said apart from international tourists, local travellers can support the local economy in sandbox areas as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed.
Torphong Wongsathienchai, founder and chief executive of Love Andaman, a Phuket-based tour operator, said new products have been prepared for the next high season, such as one-day boat trips from Phuket to islands in Phangnga and Krabi, as well as tour packages to Koh Lipe and Koh Kradan in Trang.
However, different travel restrictions in each province and unclear regulations at national parks, which could suddenly close any time without warning, are obstacles to conducting interprovincial trips, he said.
The company plans to monitor the situation before launching new routes, said Mr Torphong.
Although 80% of Love Andaman’s customers were foreigners before the pandemic, the local market now contributes 60-70% of market share in the Andaman provinces.
Mr Thanapol says local travellers can support the local economy in sandbox areas as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed. Dusida Worrachaddejchai
He said the sales rate of tour packages was low during the recent virus wave and would not significantly revive after restrictions were eased this month.
Mr Torphong said while domestic flights have resumed, there is uncertainty over provincial entry rules, making tourists hesitate in planning trips.
Tour operators cannot prepare long-term business plans while regulations regularly change, he said.
One challenge in relying on a domestic tourism rebound is weak consumer purchasing power amid the prolonged outbreak, making locals cautious about travel spending, said Mr Torphong.
“Robust domestic demand in the fourth quarter will rely heavily on mass vaccination, which encourages fully inoculated travellers to go out and spend, as seen in the US,” he said.
If the government can effectively administer a mass vaccination campaign in the last four months this year, it will buoy travel sentiment for December and early next year, said Mr Torphong.
As tourists opt for road trips to avoid the inconvenience of air travel during a pandemic, destinations near Bangkok such as Kanchanaburi can benefit, said Suwimol Ngamsriviroj, general manager and director of sales of Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass.
As more people stayed home during the outbreak, camping is one activity that gives tourists a sense of freedom when surrounded by nature, said Ms Suwimol.
Social media popularised the trend of “glamping”, which combines camping with luxury accommodation.
She said tourists still want to maintain social distancing, so they prefer private glamping sites to avoid crowded places.
The camp was fully booked for weekends after the relaxation of restrictions on Sept 1, said Ms Suwimol.
“It has been almost two years that we’ve lived with the pandemic,” she said.
“We can adapt to protect ourselves and hit the road when the situation allows.”
Although the tent camp resort temporarily closed in August to comply with public health controls, the occupancy rate throughout the recent wave stood at 60% on weekends and 10% on weekdays.
The resort offered discounts of more than 50% from pre-pandemic prices to lure local guests, and it invested more in health and safety measures, said Ms Suwimol.
The average occupancy rate for the upcoming high season should reach 40%, which is the break-even point, she said.Internet Explorer Channel Network