Thailand: China market poised to surge in Q4

Luxury hotel operators are expecting the Chinese market to pick up stronger late this year as there were no notable bookings from the mainland in the first quarter.

Ho Ren Yung, senior vice-president of brand and commercial at Banyan Tree Group, said the company has seen an increase in bookings driven by Chinese tourists from February, particularly the high end and luxury segment as well as business travellers.

However, Ms Ho, the daughter of Banyan Tree’s founders, said the group still maintains a conservative forecast that the Chinese market will come back strongly in the fourth quarter.

The group will apply a diversified strategy to capture different source markets, including Russia, Singapore, European countries and the UK.

She said targeting Chinese travellers with wellness tourism products could be a key selling point that can lure high-spending Chinese and long-stay guests.

As the hospitality and tourism industry are encountering a labour shortage in the post-pandemic period, Ms Ho said hotels need to reshape the image of working in hospitality to attract young generation employees.

The trend for hotels in the next decade will be hiring more short-term staff who can do multi-skilled tasks, she said.

Speaking at the Thailand Tourism Forum, the annual event held in Bangkok on Monday, Ms Ho said it’s crucial to emphasise sustainability to attract those who care about this issue as well as presenting opportunities to see the world.

Liz Perkins, vice-president of revenue management and commercial service for Asia-Pacific at Hilton, said staff training for the next generation would involve integrating bite-size digital training which can be learned quickly as well as providing support teams such as mental health support at Hilton.

She said Hilton is optimistic about the Chinese market as there’s increasing demand for short-haul travel in Asia-Pacific, although there’s no surge in forward bookings from Chinese tourists at the moment.

Meanwhile, STR, a market data analyst, reported that there were no notable bookings from the Chinese market in Bangkok and Pattaya in the first quarter.

The average occupancy rate in the first quarter for Bangkok and Hua Hin-Cha-am stood at 70% and 50%, respectively, while Pattaya and the South outperformed at 75%.

Wallapa Traisorat, chief executive and president of Asset World Corporation Plc (AWC), said sizeable Chinese groups would start to be seen from March as current tourists from the mainland are mostly independent travellers.

Mrs Wallapa said independent Chinese tourists contributed around 10% of AWC’s total market.

In December 2022, hotels under AWC posted a 80% occupancy rate, while the average room rate surpassed that recorded before the pandemic.

AWC has set a five-year investment budget of 100 billion baht. During the first quarter it will open the new InterContinental Chiang Mai Mae Ping Hotel and a Marriott hotel which will be rebranded from Le Meridien Chiang Mai.