Operators banking on Songkran

Hotel and airline operators have high hopes the upcoming Songkran celebration will revive sluggish tourism sentiment as the second wave of the pandemic wanes.

Thirayuth Chirathivat, chief executive of Centara Hotels and Resorts, said forward booking for the Songkran week is outstanding for the whole month, even though it pales in comparison to 2019 levels.

Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin and beach destinations such as Phuket already received more than 70% forward booking.

He said those hotels might be fully booked between April 11-14, despite the lack of a subsidy campaign from the government which has yet to start the new phase.

Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of Bangkok Airways, said the extension of the Songkran holiday to six days will prompt local tourists to take more trips.

However, the load factor during Songkran is difficult to predict as the airline is now flying only 30% of the domestic capacity based on passenger demand, which has yet to fully revive from the new Covid wave last December as demand gradually resumes.

Bangkok Airways operates 6-8 flights per day to Koh Samui, however the uptick in demand during Songkran is increasing frequencies to 20 flights.

As of March, every route still has bookings below 50%. But load factor should go up to near 100% in the holiday week as passengers prefer shorter booking windows, taking a wait-and-see approach, said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air (TLA).

Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Phuket are among the preferred destinations.

In order to preserve tourism sentiment during the off-peak season in May, the airline has to work closely with partners to offer special deals.

“We have not considered any buffet-style tickets at this moment,” Ms Nuntaporn said. “But we plan to roll out more new promotions throughout the year to attract tourists.”

The airline operates 11 aircraft with around 40 flights per day, improving from 20-30 flights in the first two months which were marred by the fresh wave in Samut Sakhon.

The aircraft utilisation stood at eight hours per day.

This year, TLA aims to maintain the average load factor at 70% rather than setting a specific goal for the number of passengers.

She said the outlook should be brighter than last year following the reopening plan for international tourists.

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