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The knock-on effect. Coronavirus hits Phuket hotels.

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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PHOTO: Some of the island's traditional hotspots are very quiet at a time when they should be very busy - Pinterest

The Thaiger’s occasional Phuket hotel management contributor is back with some inside knowledge of the current situation for hoteliers on the holiday island. That the coronavirus situation is affecting hotel bookings, is an understatement, he says. Here’s some of the current thinking as Phuket hoteliers stand around the water-cooler and mull the situation. Our writer has asked to remain anonymous…

Over the past weeks, as the coronavirus situation develops, hoteliers have been sharing information and revealing the knock-on effects on their businesses. Some hotels and resorts have been affected more than others, depending on the diversity of their guest base and the type of business they have/had on their “books”.

For us, we have so far lost approximately 1 million baht of business (FIT – Free Independent Travellers – guests) for February alone. Our friends are reporting FIT losses up to 7 million baht so far but the region of 2 – 5 million baht seems to be average so far.

Others we are hearing (confirmed data) have lost in the region of 3 – 10 million baht from the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions) markets and ‘commitment blocks’ which would have been negotiated sometime last year for the last part of January and into February. Sadly, as this has happened so quickly, it gives us all the challenge of finding new business to fill in the gaps.

But it’s not just guests from China who are cancelling now. Guests from other parts of the world, who were flying via a Chinese airport into Thailand, have been affected as their flights are cancelled. We have seen a few bookings cancelled or postponed over the past week as a result.

After this situation passes, and it will eventually pass, many hotels and resorts might look at their market mixes (as we are doing) and continue to diversify, looking specifically at merging markets to Thailand and aim for a more balanced business base (if there is such a thing). Only time will tell.

On top of all this, environmental concerns and traditionally strong high season markets are being told to ‘take the train rather than fly’. That will just add more challenges to us hoteliers for future business planning.

We are currently seeing so much negativity on social networks against Chinese visitors, however, Phuket has been one of their most favourite destinations for several years and the island really does need our Chinese visitors to return as they keep so many locals in jobs and our shopping malls open, etc. Many, many jobs will be lost if Phuket loses its Chinese traffic.

Our Chinese partners and travel offices in China have been so delighted and happy to see the lovely and uplifting video messages posted on social media (and reposted via WeChat) from many resorts, hotels and the Phuket Tourist Association showing support.

“Fake news” is certainly a factor playing a part too, as guests from other countries contact the hotel asking about the situation and asking ‘is it safe to come to Phuket?’ Social media groups from important markets have been buzzing with questions and inquiries after some ‘fake news’ postings and incorrect translations! This too has caused a few cancellations as the ‘worry’ factor deters some visitors from choosing Phuket.

The reality is, sadly, that you are much, much more likely to have a motorbike accident here than contact the virus – any virus – here in Phuket.

We are also pleased to see the Thai Government monitoring, and doing their best to crack down on such fake and irresponsible news. Reliable local media, too, are playing a very important part in this, posting facts rather than fiction.

Guests contact hotels in the first instance for information (even during ‘normal’ times if such times still exist!) so us hoteliers are doing our best to play an important part in sharing correct updated information which has been sent to us from the authorities.

As the situation continues, may we wish all our Chinese friends and partners strength and support during this time. We are still here and ready to welcome you back when the current ‘panic’ has passed.

 

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