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Reopening puts Phuket tourism recovery in sight

Reopening puts Phuket tourism recovery in sight

PHUKET: Phuket tourism operators expect the country’s reopening to tourism on Monday (Nov 1) to help build momentum for Phuket to receive 1 million international arrivals in the first quarter of next year, with a forecast of up to 10,000 visitors a day next month ‒ if there are no unforeseen events to ground tourism arrivals to a halt again.

By The Phuket News

Wednesday 3 November 2021, 11:37AM

Bhummikitti Raktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association. Photo: Radio Thailand Phuket

Bhummikitti Raktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association. Photo: Radio Thailand Phuket

Bhummikitti Raktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association, broke the news in an interview with The Phuket News yesterday (Nov 2).

The forecast followed Airports of Thailand (AoT) announcing that an estimated 726,000 air passengers are expected to travel on domestic and international flights in the country this month, or about 24,200 per day, following the country’s reopening on Monday (Nov 1).

Of the estimated 726,000 passengers next month, 270,529 will be passengers on international flights operated to and from Thailand and the rest will be travelling via domestic flights, said Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of the AoT, reported the Bangkok Post.

A total of 31 inbound flights carrying about 2,600 passengers landed at Suvarnabhumi, the country’s gateway airport, on Tuesday, said Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of the airport. Of those passengers, 1,500 were foreign nationals, he said.

“First, we must understand that there will not be any sudden rush in the number of tourists coming to Phuket,” Mr Bhummikitti explained in an interview with Radio Thailand Phuket yesterday.

Earlier in the day he told The Phuket News, “Bookings in November increased by 20%, while the load factor for some international flights will also rise to 80% thanks to fewer travel rules for low-risk countries and the winter season.”

At present, 825 international flights from 17 airlines are scheduled to arrive in Phuket in November, compared with 562 flights from 11 airlines in October, he explained.

Considering the expansion in the number of flights and load factors for each flight, local tourism operators believe that Phuket would expect to receive 300,000 visitors throughout December, giving an average of 10,000 visitors a day, Mr Bhummikitti said.

“The occupancy rate this month could gradually improve to 25-30% from 18-20% in October, before increasing to 35% in December,” he said.

“Many tourists have complained that the process for entering Thailand was difficult. As a result, a number of tourists have chosen not to travel to Thailand,” Mr Bhummitkitti told The Phuket News.

“But since the rules have been relaxed, we now have an increasing number of tourists and more tourists will travel in,” he said.

Mr Bhummitkitti remained optimistic, yet cautious, over the current forecasts, which predict a significant recovery for Phuket’s tourism industry next year.

“We’ll have to look at it a bit longer. I think it might take another two weeks in order to have more clarity,” he said.

European source markets at this stage seemed to be more likely to return as travel restrictions there are eased and as they enter their winter months, Mr Bhummikitti said.

Which countries remained on the quarantine list, including Russia, would also have an effect, he added.

Russia and India are potential markets which operators must largely do without until they are added to the list of low-risk countries, he said. (Note: India was added last Sunday)

Mr Bhummikitti said that even though Russia has recently seen spiking caseloads, Phuket has confidence in its safety protocols, with only 0.3% of Sandbox arrivals testing positive for the virus over the past four months.

“After November 15, there will be an increase in the number of countries that can travel to Sandbox segments,” Mr Bhummikitti said.

“On November 5 there will be direct flights from Moscow, of which all business class seats are full,” he said.

However, Mr Bhummikitti said room rates had returned to 60% of pre-pandemic prices during year-end holidays, which is lower than destinations like Bangkok and northern provinces, which have more of a balanced supply and demand.

Assuming the overseas viral situation remains under control during winter, while most Phuket residents receive booster doses, the PTA predicts Phuket will welcome 1mn travellers, or 40% of the 3mn seen in the first quarter of 2019.

Another factor was which of the 63 countries/territories on the ‘Test & Go’ quarantine exemption list still required travellers to enter quarantine when they arrived home, Mr Bhummikitti noted.

All proceeding well, the number of tourists travelling to Phuket next year could reach 2.6 million to 3 million people, Mr Bhummikitti said.

“It’s too early to assess revenue and tourist numbers right now, but we think that next year, throughout the whole year, there will be 2.6-3mn tourists if there are no events that cause travel to deteriorate,” he said.

“The projected volume is still less than 30% compared with before the outbreak, and is based on the current situation. If things change, there could be more [visitors], or there could be less, we don’t know. Or if the rules change, we’ll have to look again.” he cautioned.

Mr Bhummikitti said local tourism businesses remained confident that Phuket could manage another spike in infections on the island.

“We are confident that Phuket is prepared and ready, especially from our previous experiences and lessons learned. We know what we have to do from now on. So don’t worry about anything. We are fully prepared,” he said.

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