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Answering the question, who will fight for Phuket’?

Bill Barnett

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Answering the question, who will fight for Phuket’? | The Thaiger
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OPINION by Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com

Thailand’s tourism industry is sadly at the short end of the stick as policies gyrate over the reopening of the country to international travellers, yet no single province has more to lose than the resort island of Phuket. Phuket’s economic engine is leveraged on tourism. It’s a place where on a combined basis, one in every two residents comes into the tourism equation at some point in their daily work lives.

Let’s roll back the clock a few months to a time of cautious optimism when the Tourism Authority of Thailand touted the ‘Phuket Model’ and creation of the STV (Special Tourist Visa) program. Tailor-made for long-stay visitors and promoted as a unique vehicle to restart the country’s overseas travel market in a well-suited resort environment. The truth is the initiative has somehow become another dead-on-arrival victim in an uncertain and ever-changing series of policy flip-flops.

Late last week the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced that all overseas arrivals to Thailand must stay in ASQ facilities in Bangkok. This news came as a stunning rebuke to provincial hotels including many in Phuket that had spent extensive time, expense, and business planning to apply for ALSQ (alternative local state quarantine) status only to have the rug pulled out in once again another policy about-face.

In retrospect, despite the many shortcomings of the doomed “Phuket Model”, it commercially spoke to a strong historically-proven winter ‘snowbird’ market of long-stay international visitors. Coming from Northern Europe and Russia, these seasonal legacy markets are not sensitive to a fourteen-day quarantine given their typical stay is measured in weeks and months, not in days, unlike short-haul regional travellers.

As we now sit in November the reality is the indecision has now squandered the immense opportunity of at least creating a working model or prototype for returning overseas tourism to the Kingdom. From a market perspective, the hard yards were already done in that demand was there the minute temperatures dropped in the Northern Hemisphere.

Instead, and illogically in my opinion the push back to Bangkok, which may only really be suited for business travelers makes little sense to tourists who face the prospects of two weeks in an urban box. What is more non-sensical is the idea of actually promoting larger-scale Bangkok tourism at a time when the Instagram or social media images visitors post on social media are punctuated by disruptive demonstrations.

So how did Bangkok win the restart of the tourism stakes? The issue comes down to who will fight for Phuket? Both Bangkok and Pattaya City are the only two specific Special Local Government Administration areas in Thailand. Phuket, despite being a leading tourism economy, has a provincial government led by a turnstile governor post that is rotated on a regular, often erratic basis. The resort island has no long-term tourism master plan, lacks consistent economic policy, and at the end of the day, the lack of continuity is seen everywhere across the island.

What is vital to understand here is the dire consequences facing the island’s hotel and tourism sector as a result of the sinking of the “Phuket Model.” Quarterly, the first three months of every year is a primary contributor to tourism revenue, and only now is businesses are starting to come to terms that there will be no high-season relief this year. Domestic travel demand across the board is sub ten percent of hotel demand and the industry cannot maintain break-even cash flows without more demand.

While some five-star hotels, especially those going hard on Instagram, have been able to attract recurring domestic business, the domino impact of luxury and upscale hotels offering midscale pricing has crushed demand in three and four-star hotels. It’s a false economy and while it’s everyone for themselves, the sector cannot survive a sustained downturn on domestic-only business. Something has to give, and that crisis is evident everywhere you look.

Despite the Thai consumer class travelling in packs throughout the country and cherry-picking cheap deals, the economic tragedy hits home on low—income earners, who live out of sight of the tourist areas and who’s rice bowls are, and continue to remain empty in the wake of an uncertain future.

There remains optimistic chatter about a return of tourism in the second or third quarter of 2021, but in reality, no one knows the answer to that.For Phuket, that traditionally experiences highs and lows in seasonal tourism trading the harsh view is that a wider reopening will now be pushed into the first quarter of 2022. With that, next year is essentially a gap year, one that has severe negative economic prospects ahead for hotel owners, and tourism businesses.

So, what’s the way forward you might ask?Thailand has to come to grips that it must learn to live in a Covid-19 environment and cannot risk total isolation. Even with a vaccine possibly coming, the impact will only come over a longer period. Tourism has to co-exist with Covid, there is no way around it.

As for the island, a “Phuket Model or Phuket Visa” remains a logical proposition and should not be thrown out the window. Advocacy for Phuket to become a Special Local Government Administration needs to find its way onto the national agenda. And to answer the question of who will fight for Phuket, the answer is every single tourism stakeholder, hotel, or business on the island. Stay strong Phuket and #fight4Phuket. It’s the only way and there is indeed strength in numbers.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Johnny Rambo

    November 2, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I got the answer for your question Thaiger: Nobody wil fight for Phuket.

    The Thais even accept the closure of the borders maybe because they are just too stupid to understand the fatal economic consequences of that. There is a blatant lack of intellectuallity in Thailand.

    Here in Europe people protest against those useless anti-Covid measures because they know how innocuous Covid is. They know a joke virus cannot justify the destruction of their freedom rights.

    Do you really think the Thai people have enough brain quantity to understand this ?

    • Avatar

      Cor Verhoef

      November 2, 2020 at 10:46 am

      This is a brain dead government at work, not the average Thai person.

    • Avatar

      Ryan Lih

      November 2, 2020 at 12:16 pm

      FYI Johnny, European countries such is Italy, France & Germany are on 2nd lockdown. UK as well. Your ignorance knows no bounds. Look at countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and other Asean countries, no 2nd full lockdown needed. If you hold so highly on your intelligence, please read up instead of sowing negativity in every of your posts. What did Thailand do to you? Can you prove Covid19 is a “joke virus”? Perhaps you can contract it and tell us about it with your own personal experience.

      • Avatar

        Johnny Rambo

        November 2, 2020 at 12:45 pm

        We dont close our borders here in Europe. Thats the most essentiel difference between Europe and that backward banana republic called Thailand. Besides we have far less Covid deaths in Europe than traffic deaths in Land of Shame.

        • Avatar

          Maag

          November 2, 2020 at 3:49 pm

          Stupid you are !

        • Avatar

          Ryan Lih

          November 3, 2020 at 10:06 am

          Spain declares new State of Emergency set to last until MAY 2021 with nationwide overnight curfew as cases of coronavirus continue to rise. The overnight curfew will now be enforced between 11pm until 6am across Spain from Sunday October 25. Spain became the first European country to record over 1 million Covid cases, while 35,000 have died from covid 19. On Friday 30th October alone, 19,851 coronavirus cases were reported along with 231 covid 19 related deaths. Some 20,986 positive tests were seen on Thursday. You’re either living under a rock or are plain ignorant or something of a kind. Please enjoy your freedom of rights to live, breath and walk side-by-side with Covid-19. Have a nice day Johnny.

    • Avatar

      murika

      November 2, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      you seem as intelligent and racist as you name suggest, what a colonialist oriented opinion to judge a whole country based on your biased experience…

      • Avatar

        Johnny Rambo

        November 2, 2020 at 1:08 pm

        Its my right to criticize Thailand. Unlike your Banana Republic Thailand we have freedom of speech in Europe.

        • The Thaiger & The Nation

          The Thaiger & The Nation

          November 2, 2020 at 3:42 pm

          Yet you complained vehemently about someone else’s opinion in an earlier rant saying that we had no right to publish it. Make up your mind.

          • Avatar

            James

            November 2, 2020 at 4:46 pm

            Thaiger

            I agree Johnny Rambo needs to change his name to Johnny Rant-bo.

            I returned to England after being in Thailand for seven months, we will go into full lockdown this week, we have no choice, I accept it as it is necessary just like it is necessary to keep Phuket safe.

            Has Johnny Rant-bo not noticed hundreds of thousands of Thai people demonstrating in Thailand, so they do have a voice and are allowed to protest which of course is fighting for their beliefs.

            Open your eyes Rant-bo.

    • Avatar

      rr

      November 2, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      here in europe, not in your mind, those who protests are a small minority who do not care about covid and their countries but they just want make noiseand break some cars and windows. get over it. a smashing majority knows the virus is a threat and comply with rules.

    • Avatar

      Yan

      November 2, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      Yes…Rambo…no brain…you want Thailand to import the virus??? And end up worse than Europe or U.S.???

    • Avatar

      Mike

      November 10, 2020 at 8:54 am

      Thank you for your comment

  2. Avatar

    Wolfgang Meusburger

    November 2, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Thanks Bill summarizing the situaiton-
    My thoughts are that we are all on our own in Phuket- some will go under- some will barely make it- with serious hard ships to come
    I am doubtful that the government will give up its zero covid infection policy as this is what the general population wants … therefore if they are riksing the opening of borders and an influx of cases… the protests in the country will be like a tsunami-
    So lets pray for a fast vaccine a couple of months with no infections in SEA , China , Australia and hope that we can welcome some international tourists by next year.

    • Avatar

      Ryan Lih

      November 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks for your matured posts offering hope. Your wise words are exactly the point regarding vaccines. Human psyche needs hope in dire situations. It’s what makes us human and alive. Thanks Wolfgang.

  3. Avatar

    José Lopez

    November 2, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    No model will work while there is a quarantine.

  4. Avatar

    Mikiko Kohama

    November 2, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Hawaii opened the door to Japanese, if the test 72 hours before departure was negative, the quarantine period was gone. Japanese people want to come to Phuket during the New Year holidays. The length of stay is short, but the economic effect is great. I’m sure people from other countries have the same pattern. I think Phuket should eliminate the tourist isolation period, but it is better to choose the partner country. Otherwise, tourists will be taken to Hawaii

  5. Avatar

    Joe

    November 2, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    The Thais chose this government and the majority still seem to be supportive as they are not joining the protests in Bangkok, so like the saying goes they deserve the government that they have got.

    • Avatar

      Richard

      November 2, 2020 at 4:08 pm

      The Thais chose this government? Where were you in 2014?

      • Avatar

        Joe

        November 2, 2020 at 5:20 pm

        And after 2014 they voted in favour of the new military constitution. Plus there was an election not so long ago, which everybody knows was rigged to be in favour of the military, but everybody just went along with it.

  6. Avatar

    Sine Metu

    November 2, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    I totally love Thailand and all the Thai people. I personally have never had a bad experience. I have bee coming to Thailand for six months each year for the last ten years. I am desperately worried for all my dear Thai friends. Sadly it does look like this year is a no go… we all can only hope for the best over the coming year. Faster testing, maybe quarantine in your own place and a quality vaccine that we can trust. Whatever the case is so much better to show unity and love whenever possible.

    • Avatar

      Johnny Rambo

      November 2, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      What a pathetic sentimental propaganda. Did the government hire you to post this BS ? Wake up you biased troll, we dont want any quarantine. And forget about “quality vaccine”, there wont be any trustworthy vaccine until at least 2022. You either accept Covid and live with that OR you isolate your country and destroy the economy.

  7. Avatar

    Oliver

    November 2, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Most comments i see don’t give or help for solutions, all places in the world that is
    Working with tourist have the same problem, its not a thai problem, is a world problem,
    Winter ski resorts are getting bankrupt,shipping Line are facing bankruptcies, airlines,
    And so one,,yes every country care about his problem, and every business owner the same,
    The most difficult thing is to accept that the future its not going to be the same as be for, chaos is the situation today, we must reinvent our business its going to be hard ,
    But that is the reality of the future, as long we think we can do like the past we will belong to the one that will not exist in the future,,,complaining, and insulting is a no go.

  8. Avatar

    SG666

    November 2, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    The only people who will fight for Phuket are people who have a business interest here. All others – including myself – wont.

    As long as borders are closed – luckily its possible to leave LOS if you want – prices getting reasonable here and I like it.

  9. Avatar

    Yan

    November 2, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    Yes…Rambo…no brain…you want Thailand to import the virus??? And end up worse than Europe or U.S.???

    • Avatar

      Johnny Rambo

      November 3, 2020 at 1:44 am

      Importing an innocuous virus that kills not even 1% of the infected is far better than closing the borders and prompting an economic crisis with mass unemployment.

    • Avatar

      Simonphuket

      November 12, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      I doubt if Thailand has to import the virus. It is here, but with basically no testing of the locals, you wont find anything. The cases they find, are quickly brushed under the carpet and normally blamed on contact with dirty farang.
      Most Thais don’t want to re-open the borders as they have been brainwashed that all foreigners carry the virus. The fact that according to the Worldbank soon up to 18 million Thai live in poverty does not matter to them. At least they not die from Covid, because the perception is that Covid is a near guaranteed death.
      A vaccin will not help much with the situation, as you still get sick, just have a better prepared immunesystem to fight it. Education about the real dangers is key, as well as creating a feeling of social responsibility, and not each for their own. Both very challenging tasks for Thailand.

  10. Avatar

    preesy chepuce

    November 2, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    This article is mistitled… its yet another plaintiff plea to spare the hotel industry… but it’s pretty self-evident that:
    a. the hotel industry is over-saturated and needs a correction
    b. the economy is not diversified enough and needs development in other areas, especially covid-resilient ones like computing and tech
    c. even if the doors are flung open to the country, most of the rest of the world either can’t or won’t come, and some of that is because of the policies of their own countries, vis a vis return (and leaving in some cases); and partly because Thailand has spent a lot of good will with price gouging, fatal accidents, and excessive bureaucracy for foreigners to navigate. Thailand’s success was based primarily on it being good value, and when you look at how prices in tourist hubs have grown, and the impacts on currencies by events beyond the control of Thailand, the outcome is that Thailand now doesn’t seem as good value as it used to – prices are too high, and need to correct to bring back anything like the numbers they’ve had over the last ten years. It’s as if the country was harvesting a forest of money trees, and that forest has been decimated – it won’t grow back without careful gardening. Let’s hope Thailand 4.0 starts to manifest.

  11. Avatar

    EdwardV

    November 2, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    If Phuket is pining away for Snow birds to save their bacon, it’s going to be a long and hard time ahead. The reason the original “Phuket model” fail prior to take off is because there was little to no interest in it. Even a snow bird who stays for months at a time isn’t willing to pay a huge premium and get quarantined for 14 days. It’s just too easy to go somewhere else. It was reported last month that European airlines have added dozens of extra fights per week, over and above the usual amount, to Mexico and the Caribbean. It’s too late, they have already book somewhere else for this winter. The Phuket model will never work. It’s too costly, too bureaucratic, and too restrictive. People come to Thailand because it’s easy, cheap, and fun. It’s no longer easy or cheap, and most of the fun is out of business. There are ways to open up if Thailand so chooses. There are many successful examples out there to emulate. However the idea people will come just because you want them to so do needs to end. It’s not grounded in reality, just hope.

    • Avatar

      Johnny Rambo

      November 3, 2020 at 1:45 am

      Importing an innocuous virus that kills not even 1% of the infected is far better than closing the borders and prompting an economic crisis with mass unemployment.

      • The Thaiger & The Nation

        The Thaiger & The Nation

        November 3, 2020 at 8:13 am

        You need to do some maths. Divide the published cases by the published number of deaths… in any countries. See how you go.

  12. Avatar

    J West

    November 19, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Third world tourism has always been a “ falling backwards into free money” economy. And here we are, flat on our collective butts. Thai and others, like Balinese, grew rich and sassy, entitled. Arrogance and greed are uncomfortable bed-fellows. The people bringing the money became “dirty foreigners”. Oh well. I guess money doesn’t grow on trees. In the West we call the current financial picture ‘ over-extended’ when reorganization becomes the inevitable consequence of poor planning.

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Bill Barnett has over 30 years of experience in the Asian hospitality and property markets. He is considered to be a leading authority on real estate trends across Asia, and has sat at almost every seat around the hospitality and real estate table. Bill promotes industry insight through regular conference speaking engagements and is continually gathering market intelligence. Over the past few years he has released four books on Asian property topics.

Tourism

4 years until tourism industry gets back to pre-pandemic levels – Finance Ministry

Caitlin Ashworth

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4 years until tourism industry gets back to pre-pandemic levels – Finance Ministry | The Thaiger

It could take 4 years for Thailand’s tourism industry to recover after being battered by the lack of travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s reaction and the economic fallout, according to the Finance Ministry.

While local and international experts project Thailand’s economy will continue to recover over the next 2 years, the tourism industry, which directly contributes 12-15% of the country’s GDP, is forecasted to take at least 4 years to get back to the pre-pandemic level, if ever. Last year, Thailand had nearly 40 million foreign tourist arrivals, generating 2 trillion baht.

Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says he expects 8 million foreign tourists to arrive in 2021, followed by 16 million in 2022, 32 million in 2023 and 40 million in 2024. But the projections are just broad speculation.

No foreign tourists entered the country between April and September this year. In October, 1,201 foreign tourists were issued Special Tourist Visas for 90 day stays that can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months in total. Under the current arrangements there will only be a trickle of tourists coming under the current regime including 14 day quarantine, at the tourist’s expense, and lots of paperwork and red tape.

IF Thailand does end up. with 8 million foreign tourist arrivals next year, and the cash subsidy scheme is extended, the country’s GDP is expected to expand by 4% to 4.5%, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Economists say new local Covid-19 cases could slow tourism recovery

Caitlin Ashworth

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Economists say new local Covid-19 cases could slow tourism recovery | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Some are concerned about a potential second coronavirus outbreak after 10 Thai women tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from Myanmar’s Tachileik district. Some travelled to Bangkok and Chiang Mai after returning.

A second wave of infections will stall the recovery of domestic tourism and Thailand’s overall economy that has been battered by the pandemic, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council, or NESDC.

Since some cases were reported in the tourism dependent provinces Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the council is concerned that the recent infections could slow down domestic tourism, according to the council’s secretary general, Danucha Pichayanan. After the first cases were reported in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai earlier this week, many people who planned to visit the provinces cancelled their accommodation bookings, Danucha says.

“Containing the spread is a priority for the government… Effective controls for the second wave are crucial for the country’s overall economic recovery.”

When the pandemic started to affect the global economy in the first quarter of the year, GDP dropped by 2% year-on-year. GDP then plunged by 12.1% in the second quarter of the year, the biggest drop since the Asian financial crisis from 1997 to 1999. The economy improved in the third quarter with GDP contracting by 6.4% year-on-year.

With hopes that a Covid-19 vaccine will be widely available by mid-2021, NESDC predicts the economy will expand by 3.5% to 4.5%.

“That is not a certainty. Everything is uncertain. The government and the NESDC need to monitor all variables.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Cabinet approves extension, upgrade of stimulus measures, welfare payments

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The government has given the green light to the extension and refinement of a number of economic stimulus schemes and welfare payments. 43.5 billion baht has been set aside to fund an extension of the current co-payment scheme and the welfare card program. It’s understood 22.5 billion baht will go to phase 2 of the co-payment scheme, with 21 billion earmarked for the welfare card program.

Danucha Pichayanan from the National Economic and Social Development Council says an additional 5 million people are expected to benefit from phase 2 of the co-payment scheme, which will run from January to March next year. There are currently over 890,000 small businesses registered with the scheme, in which the government subsidises 50% of the cost of food, drink, and other products, up to a maximum of 150 baht per person per day, capped at 3,000 baht per person for the duration of the campaign. From January, that maximum will be increased from 3,000 to 3,500 baht per person, meaning the 10 million people currently registered for the campaign will receive an additional 500 baht.

Additionally, the Centre for Economic Situation Administration has agreed to extend the 500 baht monthly payment to welfare cardholders on low incomes for a further 3 months from January.

Meanwhile, the domestic tourism stimulus scheme is set to be extended until April 30 next year and is getting a bit of an upgrade too. Yuthasak Supasorn from the Tourism Authority of Thailand says the maximum number of hotel nights subsidised under the scheme is being increased from 10 to 15. Air fare subsides are being increased from 2,000 to 3,000 baht, for passengers flying to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Songkhla, and Surat Thani. The scheme also provides subsidies for spa visits, and car and boat hire, as well as food.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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