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2021 The New Normal (Not)

Category: Tourism, Posted:21 Dec 2020 | 06:00 am

As 2020 winds down, it’s time to look into the next chapter of our lives that could best be summed up as “same same, but different.”

Hitting the news is the Airports of Thailand (AOT) who control most of the gateway aviation facilities in the country talking about marketing plans for international airlift in the fourth quarter of 2021 and into 2022.

As for the key accelerator of recovery, the vaccine estimates place its widespread take-up in Thailand at six to nine months. Do the math, we are again looking at a similar timeline.

What this looks like for hotels and tourism businesses in 2021 is anything but normal and a continued volatile marketplace. The light at the end of the tunnel is now out there though, but the journey is a hard and challenging task.

A sour note was struck this last week when the Thai government announced it was postponing the second phase of the domestic travel incentive program “Rao Tiew Duay Kan” or ‘We Travel Together’ due to corruption issues. Again, while imperfect, the initiative did spur domestic travel.

Perhaps most worrisome was a strong public reaction after a small number of Covid-19 cases were found in Chiang Mai. And over the past few days, a lockdown of Samut Sakhon after a local spread. Lockdowns remain the elephant in the room.

Bottom line, we know what we don’t know and that volatility will be our unwelcome bedfellow for most of next year. There are green shoots on the horizon and the vaccine is a gamechanger, but there is still plenty of game left and that is unpredictable.

The ultimate messaging for hotels and tourism is to be cautiously optimistic on the long game, but for now, and in the foreseeable future the only markets are domestic and locals, and that will be the case for quite a while to come. The STV (special term visa) program is positive but it lacks scale and its impact on the broader market is muted.

What is certain, in an uncertain world is that into 2021 the soundtrack appears to be Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Love the One You’re With.”

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