Phuket, known as the Paradise of the Andaman Sea, attracts about 10 million tourists every year. It is the gold mine of Thailand’s hospitality sector.
Or it was until the pandemic struck. This is not because Thailand was particularly badly ravaged by the virus. Thailand was able to control the number of active cases, but despite its medical expertise, the closure of airports and borders has disrupted our economy on a massive scale. This has made more than 100,000 citizens jobless, especially in the hospitality sector which contributes nearly 20 per cent of the nation’s GDP.
The announcement of a curfew, followed by closure of hotels and restaurants, has devastated the economy. There are office workers and pilots who have turned themselves into chefs in order to stay solvent. Thankfully, Thailand has a cultural tradition of giving and many big organizations are supporting those in need. Even the government has provided funding for people who are listed as unemployed.
Much of the focus has rightly been on the plight of employees who have lost their jobs. But as a hotelier I have other responsibilities and worries – particularly about my staff and about the future. Hotels will have to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of hospitality if they are to inspire trust in the customers coming to the hotel and enhance the reputation of the brand. This requires placing hand sanitizer stations in public areas, upgrading the cleaning routine in different areas of the hotel, and maintaining social distance in the restaurants, in the lobby or even at the frontdesk between guests and staff.
Since limiting contact between individuals has become the norm, it is essential for hotels to adopt a keyless system by using mobile phones as a room key instead. At this stage, all hotels whether a market leader or a new entrant, are on the same starting line. The hotels that are faster at adapting to these changes will earn more trust from the public and eventually strengthen their customer base.
As the world economy begins to recover and people travel again, life might be tougher for hotels focused on Europeans and Americans, as the recovery phase begins with easing restrictions on domestic, then regional and finally international routes. It is essential for Thai hotels to shift their marketing towards the domestic and regional audience during this recovery period.
In life there will always be change. It is our duty to find alternatives and adapt. And most importantly, travelling with not be halted forever. The world will travel again.