After nearly two months of curfews and travel restrictions, Thai FITs are raring to head out again and the most eye-catching destinations are those that they can access with their personal cars once limitations ease up.
Bill Barnett, founder of C9 Hotelworks, indicated that “both overnight stays and day trips look to be the agents of change in the short-term.”
According to data from STR, domestic tourism has proven positive for destinations like Hua Hin, helping to prop up market-wide average room rate at the 4,000 baht (US$125) level, which “in many of other Thailand’s resort destinations rates have been flat or in some cases retreated in the face of mass tourism and appreciation of the Thai baht,” stated Barnett.
Yee also pointed out that post-pandemic leisure travel trends may shift to less crowded places with plenty of open air environment, such as natural and cultural spots like Hua Hin, Koh Chang, Koh Samed and the mountain resorts of Chiang Rai (Phu Chi Fah, Doitung, Doi Mae Salong), Chiang Mai (Doi Suthep, Inthanon, Doi Luang), Pai and Maehongson.
Yee is working on initiatives to revive cross-border self-drive holidays, such as from Yunnan to North Thailand. He also foresees self-drive tourism potential between Thailand and Myanmar, and between Thailand and Malaysia.
Andre van der Marck, founder and managing director of Travel Exclusive Asia, expects self-drive holidays to pick up especially among the richer Thais – people in the middle class and up, and who have their own cars. The self-drive trend may stay for four to six months, before Thais return to overseas destinations.
Amid the changing landscape of tourism business, Nattapong Saengsirirattana, managing director of Thai Leisure Co., told TTG Asia that he might try his hand at the domestic market. Thai Leisure Co, has all along focused on the foreign market, but overseas arrivals are expected to be weak until the end of the year.
“Right now it’s hard to wait for foreign tours to come in. If our government can get the virus under control, reduce restrictions and let Thai people travel, we may adjust our business plan to accommodate Thais,” he said.
“I’m not sure if (travellers) really need a DMC to handle such trips. Thais are a hard and rough market; everyone can drive and book a hotel via Agoda. But it could be something for local DMCs who are really Thai oriented to look at,” he said.
Mayflower Car Rental general manager, Abdul Rahman Mohamed, foresees a pick-up in domestic self-drive vacations as soon as the government lifts its Conditional Movement Control Order and allows interstate travel again.
For Haniza Hasan, managing director of Langkawi-based Honeyzone Travel Tours, the domestic self-drive vacation market has always been a strong performer. Domestic bookings make up 80 per cent of the company’s self-drive business, she d, and is a more lucrative business compared with walk-ins the company gets from foreigners who are already in Langkawi.
Haniza said the business comes with upselling potential, as domestic travellers will purchase accommodation and transportation from her agency and are open to suggested itineraries, attractions and activities that will help pad up her income.
Sinnaya said Langkawi is in a strong position to attract travellers, as the destination has been in the Green Zone, which means it has no active cases.
For now, Haniza is selling accommodation and vehicle rental packages ahead for 2021, throwing in a 40 per cent early-bird discount to get appetites going. – Additional reporting by S Puvaneswary