“The high occupancy rate is partially because only half of the hotels are open,” said Suksit Suvunditkul, president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, reports the Bangkok Post.
Mr Suksit said the occupancy rate of hotels in the South was 67% in November, up from 57% in October, expected to reach almost 80% this month.
However, average room rates still lagged behind those in 2019 by 20%, except five-star properties that can perform better than other segments.
He said four- and three-star hotels might recruit employees harder than high-end hotels, while workers in the latter can regularly change jobs to negotiate a higher income.
Mr Suksit said some hotels have offered higher daily pay of B700-1,000 to attract workers, an increase from the normal rate of B400-500.
He said the number of Russian tourists had surged since last month because of an increase in chartered flights and commercial flights.
This market now contributes 25% of foreign tourists in Phuket, followed by Indians (12%), Singaporeans and Australians (6% each) and other European nations.
Long-haul tourists have been increasing and they tend to stay longer, up to two weeks to escape the cold weather, said Mr Suksit.
The surge is expected to continue over the next few months, which would intensify the labour shortage in Phuket, he said.
Hotels cannot offer all their rooms if there are not enough staff on duty, said Mr Suksit.
He said there is a severe shortage in food and beverage, maintenance and kitchen staff as Thais don’t want to take these jobs.
Many hotels have been offering student internships, signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with universities to temporarily solve this problem.
Mr Suksit said it would be better for the government to sign an MoU with countries such as the Philippines or Indonesia to attract more workers to the hospitality sector.
Last week, inbound tourists surpassed 10 million.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the number may reach 11.5 million arrivals by the end of this year.