Global tourism is on its way to a “long-term, sustainable recovery” as more travellers and countries recognise the endemic nature of COVID-19, according to hotel operator Banyan Tree.
Hotels in tourism-reliant Thailand, which kept its so-called Phuket Sandbox open as a pathway for international travellers to skip quarantine, hasn’t seen major cancellations after the emergence of omicron, Banyan Tree Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday.
“While the pickup in new bookings is slower because people want to be cautious, there’s a recognition that it is going to become endemic and that recognition is changing people’s attitude,” Mr Ho said. “That’s why we’re so optimistic.”
While many nations have reintroduced some restrictions to slow the spread of the omicron variant, some countries have refrained from a broad lockdown. Thailand widened its sandbox tourism program to three more regions last week, and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday that the nation’s main virus panel will consider reviving its quarantine-free visa program for vaccinated travellers later this week. Indonesia has kept Bali opened to international arrivals with some curbs as well.
“The point is whether Thailand and the world is definitely back for a rebound. We’ve seen dead-cat-rebounds in the past, with omicron replacing delta,” Mr Ho said. The tourism industry in Phuket is optimistic about a recovery and feels “that this is the beginning of the end,” he said.
Singapore-based Banyan Tree launched five new brands over the past two years, including in China and Thailand betting on a tourism rebound, Mr Ho said.
Banyan Tree’s properties on Thai resort island of Phuket saw about 70 per cent occupancy in the final weeks of December and expects about 55 – 60 per cent in January, with occupancy averaging 40 per cent – 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year. The room rates continue to be a third of what they were before COVID because of a massive oversupply of rooms following the “incredible, sudden, overnight collapse” of the market, he said.
“It’s going to take a long time for the full recovery. The main question is are we really on the path for a long-term sustainable recovery, and the indication is pretty much yes,” Mr Ho said.