Trat’s tourism sector hopes to rebound despite ongoing struggles

Photo Courtesy of Ragnar Vorel, Unsplash

Trat, one of Thailand’s premier beach destinations, is optimistic about a boost in tourism during the latter part of this year despite a struggling hotel sector that is yet to bounce back from Covid-19 disruptions.

Phatcharin Sawettarat, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Trat Office, disclosed that the province accommodated approximately one million visitors last year, just half of 2020’s figures, due to lockdowns and other restrictions. Trat and its famous islands, like Koh Kud, Koh Mak, and Koh Chang, previously drew over 2 million tourists. Phatcharin said…

“It was astonishing that the number of foreign tourists jumped by 135.72% during the first five months when compared with the same period last year, while income was also up by 134.04%.”

These figures bolstered the belief that the tourism sector in Trat would rebound in the second half of 2021.

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It’s expected that tourists will start reserving rooms towards the end of the year, which is also the high season. Furthermore, airlines are expected to escalate flight frequencies, and daily speedboat services to Koh Chang, Koh Mak, and Koh Kud are set to be heightened.

Even so, the pandemic’s three-year impact still burdens many hotel owners, with a surge of property sales and businesses struggling to remain viable, according to Pornchai Kemaphong, chairman of the Tourism Council Office in Trat. He mentioned that a minimum of 30% of the hotels in Koh Chang were either listed for sale or had ceased operations due to financial deficits.

Thongpoon Phopanha, the general manager of Koh Chang Paradise Hill Hotel and Koh Chang Paradise Resort, noted that the Emerald Cove Koh Chang Hotel was recently bought by an investor from Phuket for 1.5 billion baht (US$43 million). This deal was announced by the hotel owner, Suksan Korsa-Ngaluck, who had the hotel renovated before its planned reopening later this year.

Notably, the Chang Park Resort on Kai Be Beach was also acquired by Koh Chang International, a ferry service owner, for 250 million baht (US$7.2 million), and the five-star Kacha Resort Koh Chang and the Bhumiyama Beach Resort were listed for 1.7 billion baht (US$49 million) and 200 million baht (US$5.7 million) respectively.

Thaweesak Wongwilat, deputy chair of the Tourism Council Office in Trat, stated that the hospitality sector is engaged in a discount war, especially in Koh Chang, causing a reduction in profit for smaller hoteliers. With five-star establishments drastically dropping their room rates from 10,000 baht (US$289) to 1,000-2,000 baht (US$29-58) per night, survival is particularly challenging for smaller businesses.

This rate-cutting trend and political instability are cited as reasons for the delay in the tourism recovery of Trat and its islands. Nevertheless, the authorities remain determined to invigorate the sector with various schemes and promotional campaigns, reaffirming hopes for a bounce-back by the year’s end.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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