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High season? What high season? Thai tourism has a gap year.





High season. What’s happening to Thailand’s traditional tourist high season this year?

(Sounds of crickets and tumbleweed rolling down the streets)

Just as last year’s high season was wrapping up, the Covid-19 pandemic became real and much of the world closed its borders in March. Thailand hoteliers, tour operators and airlines had to endure a very quiet low season, obviously a lot lower than usual. But with the next high season looming the prospects of a sudden surge of tourists is slim. And thousands of businesses that were holding out for a bounce back over the traditional busy tourist season will now have to wait even longer.

The mandatory 14 day quarantine and copious paperwork, despite all the best intentions, is simply too much of a burden for the overseas visitors that might want to travel to Thailand. The uptake of the much-hyped Special Tourist Visa has been dismal. Now the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Sports and Tourism have again scheduled a talkfest with the country’s leading hotel groups because, well, they don’t know what to do.

It’s simple. The hotel groups will say we need to find a way to re-open the borders and manage the Covid situation into the future. The public servants will nod in agreement and say they’ll “look into it”. There will be another ‘proposal’, and nothing much will change. Thai government officials seem to be waiting for the magic pill, a viable vaccine, to provide the safety net for a re-opening of the borders.

Meanwhile, the Thai government is caught inside a travel bubble of its own making. A travel bubble of ONE.

Around the country leaders in various industries are looking, assuringly, to the Thai government for leadership and a way forward. But as the 2020/2021 high season kicks in, there is only another 3 months of almost zero tourism on the horizon. Whilst Thais are being stirred out of their provinces with stimulus packages to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants, most aren’t travelling far and the hopes for a domestic-tourism-led recovery are fanciful at best.

Bryan Flowers is the CEO of the Night Wish Group based in Pattaya, owners of some of the town’s most popular bars. He’s vaguely hopeful but says they’ve been struggling.

“Unless the visa situation lightens, quarantine is scrapped and flights are increased, we do not expect a high season, 50% of our sales are online now, maybe that will increase if people have time off.”

“We really hope we can catch a high season in December but the general consensus is things wont get back to normal until after Songkran, of which we normally hit our lowest sales of the year in June-July, But I expect some huge momentum in traffic coming into Thailand once the quarantine is dropped totally.”

Scot Toon, the MD from The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts, Asia, says they’d hoped to start welcoming back tourists to Pavilions Phuket back in August.

“Like many we have made changes to our operations but maintained the five star standards of the resort we have focused heavily on the Thai market and insured that we changed our offerings to meet the needs and wants of this key market. We have found that the Thailand travel agents especially the ones that used to focus on inbound or outbound travel is now changing their focus on driving thai business to local destinations.”

“We have worked closely with domestic focused travel partners And have seen great pick up and bookings for October, November and December. Although nowhere near full it is helped us to reduce the burden of cash flow and move forward and grow our business from the zero base of being closed.”

“Long term we look forward to borders opening as there is not nearly enough domestic business for all the hotels in the island.”

Bill Barnett, MD and senior consultant for, says this year’s high season is proving to be a ‘gap year’ for the industry.

“It’s a bit like a Bear Grylls episode of hotel managers parachuting into the jungle, rife with danger at every corner and a hike out o the wilderness into the light, and promise of the vaccine. Hard yards ahead but there are some green-shoots out there and Thailand will bounce back, it’s just a matter of time.”

But nothing short of a broad re-opening of the borders, along with dropping many of the restrictions and paperwork, will save Thailand tourism. But the country’s health officials are saying the risk is too great, especially as much of the world is now experiencing a major surge in new cases and deaths caused by Covid-19.

And even if they fling open the borders tomorrow, who would be coming? The volume of the world’s travellers have been reduced to a trickle and, around the world, international flights are few, and expensive.

Some of Thailand’s larger tour companies and hotel groups will be able to hang in there, surviving on limited re-openings of rooms or just keeping the doors locked and sacking staff. Smaller businesses have either already closed up shop or will not be able to weather any further extension of the tourist drought.

In Chiang Mai the weather is starting to cool with crisp mornings and evenings making the northern city a popular tourist hot spot through December, January and February. In Phuket, the wet season is over and the skies glow bright blue with cooling breezes and long stretches of clear beaches. In Bangkok the Christmas decorations are already up at shopping malls awaiting the flood of international tourists for the high season.

But the fate of this high season is already sealed and the return-to-normal simply isn’t going to happen. Whilst much of the tourism and hospitality industry thought that this year’s 2020/2021 high season would signal the start of a ‘new beginning’, it’s just turned out to be the beginning of a long haul for Thailand’s industry players, and the thousands they employ.


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  1. Avatar


    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Hopefully with a regime change, Thailand will resume to normal quickly

  2. Avatar


    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 9:32 am

    About time to understand that your government goofed around with tourism, healthcare, security, economy and more !
    This season is dead and the next one probably…
    Take good care of you 41 (!!!) high-end (!!!) Chinese tourists. Hope they enjoy deserted
    As far as the super-yachts tale is concerned we all had a good laugh !!!

  3. Avatar

    Isan John

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 9:35 am

    But nothing short of a broad re-opening of the borders, along with dropping many of the restrictions and paperwork, will save Thailand tourism

    it never will. Millions of wealthy tourists dream of visiting Thailand. We won’t have cheap Charlie anymore.

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Wealthy tourists have already visited Thailand. They’ll never be back !

    • Avatar

      J West

      Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      I was looking at a typical offering yesterday at Anantara Bophut Phuket. Was asking B 18,000 now under B 5000, and open booking at Xmas. It’s dead. I think Thai tourism has priced itself out of the luxury market. China model is not “the luxury market”. At B18000 pricing is three times 5 Star European pricing. I like Thailand, but not three times more. IMHO.

    • Avatar

      Mike Frenchie

      Saturday, November 21, 2020 at 11:30 pm

      Wealthy tourists? LOL… Chinese cheap charlies… and few pot belly retired living on their shrinking pension. Every luxury project has been a flop in Pattaya… and Phuket is a ghost town.

    • Avatar


      Monday, November 23, 2020 at 8:01 am

      Within the tourism industry there will be thousands unemployed and hundreds if not thousands of businesses no longer operating. Once the tourists are back there will be huge opportunity for Thais to make money again. New businesses will spring up everywhere to cater for demand and the will be across all ranges. It’s likely that Thailand will see a return of the budget traveller in much bigger numbers. Poor you.

  4. Avatar


    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 9:41 am

    low tourism season, riots high season. Be prepared for next season.

  5. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 10:06 am

    “Tumbleweed rolling down the streets”
    Where, where? What tumbleweed?

    The Thais have created a lot of resentment, and bitterness.
    Expats with businesses, and wives and families could not return without a lot of expensive restrictions. All overpriced and one big scam!
    what justification was there for only allowing Thai insurance?
    What justification was there for stopping flights out?
    what justification for stopping transit flights through the airport
    What justification was there for stopping the Laos and the Cambodians from coming into Thailand
    There are zero deaths and very few case in each country.
    Look at all the deposits lost to hotels, who knew the tourists could not fly in.
    Look at all the airfares lost to airlines because flights were not allowed out.
    LOOK at Thai airway! Look at how many tickets were not refunded! Yet they still fly!
    Here is a glaring example of a Thai scam.
    To fly in and go through all the hoop jumping the tourist has to use an agent, costing B10.000. Why? Because the agents kicks back to the immigration. The immigration could manage it, but they use agents for the kick backs.
    No, the Thais have killed the golden goose with their incompetence, lying, cheating, and scams.
    Some ex tourists will never come back. Some expats will leave and never return.
    Die Thailand. You had it. You lost it.

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 10:12 am

      One single answer †o all your questions : CORRUPTION !

    • Avatar

      Jack Nipkant​

      Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 11:29 am

      These are so true. Pity for the country and ashamed with the government. The agent fee at 10,000 Baht of FKTLM, the very poor competency of the MP, the liars of the big scams of Phuket​ Model, Samui​ Model, Travel​ Bubble, STV and so on can be a campaign of #Thai Scams rather than Thai Smile.

  6. Avatar


    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Is it a given thailand will drop the quarantine requirement for those vaccinated? Nothing to date makes me think it’s a given. If I’m going to risk a vaccination I’m only going to places without any quarantine. Test me sure, paperwork I can live with, but no quarantine.

  7. Avatar

    jesus monroe

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 11:57 am

    They cooked the goose because they were staving.

  8. Avatar


    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    Over complicated visa regulations, exorbitant fees, to many local restrictions.
    Sorry but hate to say Thai tourism is destined to remain out of reach for world holiday makers.

  9. Avatar


    Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    Alas, Thailand can survive without farang. They don’t need them. It’s better without dirty farang. !! Really ! No Sympathy

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