White Lotus effect: Thai resorts brace for tourist tsunami

Photo courtesy of BBC News

As the fictional guests of Season 3 of The White Lotus bid farewell to their lavish Thai resort, tourists are gearing up for their tropical escape. The series recently concluded filming at multiple luxurious locations in Thailand. Although the show won’t air until next year, hotels and tour operators are already anticipating a White Lotus boom.

The previous seasons of the show, which offers a satirical glimpse into the lives of its affluent guests and the staff at the titular luxury hotel, were filmed at Four Seasons properties in Maui, Hawaii, and Taormina, Sicily. Fans turned these real-life locales into must-visit destinations, leading to a surge in visitors. Some eager tourists are making their way to Thailand even before the new season airs.

Misty Belles, spokesperson for Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisors, stated that the Four Seasons in Taormina is fully booked.

“We’re expecting Thailand to go crazy once White Lotus airs. People are already trying to get there first.”

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Virtuoso’s bookings to Thailand have surged 38% from last year, mainly driven by US travellers.

Black Tomato, a luxury travel agency specialising in vacations inspired by popular films, reported a 44% increase in sales to Thailand in the first four months of this year. Prices have risen by about 15% from last year.

Guests specifically requested the resorts featured in the upcoming season: Four Seasons Koh Samui, where an ocean-view villa costs about US$1,700 (approximately 60,000 baht) a night, and Anantara Mai Khao, with pool villas priced at around US$400. Availability at these properties is becoming scarce.

Leading Hotels of the World, a collection of independent luxury hotels, noted a 25% increase in searches for its six properties in Thailand after the show’s filming was confirmed. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reported heightened interest in Koh Samui, Phuket, and Bangkok.

“Appearing in The White Lotus Season 3 allows us to reach a truly global audience,” says Chompu Marusachot, director of the Tourism Authority’s New York office.

Thailand has already seen a 37% rise in foreign visitors this year, with projections of nearly 36 million arrivals. The tourism ministry even increased cash rebates for foreign film productions to attract shoots like The White Lotus, saving HBO’s crew up to US$4.1 million.

Koh Samui waste

However, Koh Samui faces challenges. The island struggles with 150,000 tonnes of waste due to a malfunctioning incinerator and a water shortage that forces some hotels to buy water from private suppliers. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has pledged support to tackle these issues.

Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, urges local leaders to prepare for the tourist influx, reported BNN Bloomberg.

“We need to expand roads, improve waterworks, and manage waste. We want to give our guests a wonderful experience of Thailand. We have to get ready for them.”

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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