Hoteliers in Krabi are banking on the Phuket sandbox model to jumpstart international travel sentiment, paving the way for hotels to reopen and job recruitments to begin for the upcoming high season.
Wichupan Srisanya, president of the Krabi Hotel Association, said hoteliers will closely watch the reaction to the Phuket sandbox model before deciding about operations during the off-peak season.
There are 848 registered hotels offering 24,000 rooms in Krabi, however, only 10% are operating at the moment, as occupancy rates remain in the single digits.
Ms Wichupan said the plan to reopen the country in 120 days sounds promising but operators need practical details and clear directions to prepare their business in advance, such as hiring people and increasing cash flow.
No matter the obstacles, the government should stick to the timeline to maintain tourism confidence, she said. It should fix problems one at a time instead of stopping the whole process.
Vaccine administration is the top priority in major tourism areas, namely Koh Phi Phi, Railay Bay, Koh Ngai, Koh Lanta, Ao Nang and Klong Muang which have a population of 46,108, however, achieving herd immunity in the whole province will happen only when 352,476 people are vaccinated.
Ms Wichupan said if the country can open up in October, most hotels in Krabi will be ready to welcome guests, especially those in Koh Lanta.
Hoteliers have already started to receive forward bookings from Scandinavian guests for January and February.
“Krabi has a strong legacy market with loyal guests from Scandinavian nations — where vaccination rates are high — who visit Thailand annually during winter,” said Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks.
Krabi also has the potential to attract local tourists seeking different experiences besides Hua Hin, Phuket or Pattaya. Moreover, the region’s scenic landscapes are an attraction for Instagram users.
According to the latest report regarding the Krabi hotel market conducted by C9 Hotelworks, Krabi — particularly the Ao Nang area — will welcome five global hotel brands providing a total of 1,096 rooms, including Hilton, Holiday Inn Express, Movenpick, Novotel and Club Med next year.
The current pipeline is showing signs of maturity as it is attracting diverse upscale and luxury properties, compared to the market in the pre-pandemic era which featured mostly unbranded midscale properties.
Mr Barnett said Thai tourism will restart with baby steps and proof of concept with real change happening in 2022.