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The 12th edition of the Thailand Tourism Forum 2023, organized by C9 Hotelworks has opened registration. Set for 16 January 2023 at the Conrad Bangkok the event is the largest annual hospitality gathering in the country. With an impressive set of speakers and quality content, TTF is a  live, in-person (no virtual option), ‘must-attend’  industry gathering.

The event program is as follows –

Thailand Tourism Forum 2023 12th Annual Edition

Date: Monday, 16 January 2023

Venue: Conrad Hotel Bangkok

Organizer: C9 Hotelworks Hospitality Consulting Group

Host Event Partner: Hilton

Event Partners: Horwath HTL, STR, JLL Hotels and Hospitality, QUO, Delivering Asia Communications, AMCHAM Thailand, Creative Concept AV, Phuket Hotels Association

 

2023 Event Schedule and Program

 2:00 pm onwards: Registration Open

3:00 pm to 3:50 pm: Prequel – Hospitality Innovation Tech Pitch Competition

4:00 to 5:45 pm: Main Event – Thailand Tourism Forum 2023

Why Thailand Hospitality Must Innovate

Bill Barnett, Managing Director, C9 Hotelworks

Creating a New Hospitality Landscape with Brands

Wallapa Traisorat, Chief Executive Officer and President, Asset World Corporation

(Moderator) David Johnson, CEO, Delivering Asia Communications

Disruption and Change in Hotel Technology and Distribution

Liz Perkins, Vice President – Revenue Management and Commercial Services APAC, Hilton

(Moderator) Charles Blocker, CEO, IC Partners Limited

Thai Hospitality – Culture, Design, Legacy and Now Reinvention

Ho Ren Yung, Senior Vice President – Brand and Commercial, Banyan Tree Group

(Moderator) Sumi Soorian, Executive Director, Phuket Hotel Hotels Association

Ready, Set, Go (Wait) – How Competitive Are Thai Hotels?

Jesper Palmqvist, Senior Director – Asia Pacific, STR

Challenges and Changes in Being a Hotel Owner

Proudputh Liptapanlop, Executive Director, Proud Real Estate PLC

(Moderator) Nikhom Jensiriratanakorn, Director, Horwath HTL

Thailand Hotel Transaction Market Update and Financing

Chakkrit Chakrabandhu Na Ayudhya, Head of Thailand Investment Sales and EVP – Asia, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group

Brand Thailand Meets ESG, Hello Crunch Time

Catherine Monthienvichienchai, Chief Branding Officer, QUO Global

Changing Paradigms in Thai Tourism – A Look Ahead

Prab Thakral, President and Group CEO, Boutique Corporation PCL

(Moderator) TBC

What is the Hotel of the Future?

Eric Ricaurte, Founder and CEO, Greenview

Wrap Up – The Biggest Bang

5:45 pm onwards, networking drinks

 

Event Co-Hosts

Bonn Krongsak Paramacharoenroj, Country Manager, ONDA Thailand

Nida Wongphanlert, Managing Owner, 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts

 

To register for the event (space is limited and attendance is free) CLICK

 

 

Keep People Inspired (KPI) is the second in a series of Mind the Gap Learning events. The focus of the event is on inclusiveness in hospitality, spanning Phuket’s hotels, tourism and service industries. Inclusiveness is a key element of businesses that rely heavily on human resources and is in effect all about people, whether they are the ones working or guests and customers.

KPI topics will include important issues such as gender equality, diversity, inclusion, and an increasingly critical focus on mental wellbeing at home and in the workplace.  We will also cover personal development and how to upskill and move ahead with career goals including entrepreneurism.

This special three-hour learning session offers an amazing set of talented speakers and talks meant to show how to break down barriers, develop ideas and spur personal growth. It is also an opportunity to network, make new contacts and strengthen ties in the Phuket business community. The event welcomes everyone with an interest in hotels, tourism and hospitality, human resources, life learning and creating positive change.

Date                                                      Thursday, 10 November 2022

Venue                                                   Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach

Organizers                                           Phuket Hotels Association, C9 Hotelworks and SAIJAI Homecare

Supporters                                          Travel Daily Asia (TD), Delivering Asia Communications and Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa

Event Fee                                             THB500 including networking coffee break, THB100 for students

Event Schedule

1:00 pm onwards                             Event Registration

2:00 to 5:00 pm                KPI – Keep People Inspired

Introduction – Bjorn Courage, President Phuket Hotels Association

From Unconscious Bias to Inclusive Leadership

Pranapda “Pam” Chirathivat, Founder Dragonfly360, President, President – Siam Music Yamaha and Director, Siam Motors Group

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matters, and What Comes Next

Max Simpson, Founder and CEO, Steps Community

Inspiring Women (and Men) in the Tourism Industry

Michaela Conner, Founder and Chairperson, TD’s Inspiring Women in Travel Asia

The Self-Development Toolkit

Klaus Feilkas, Managing Director, Reddot Consultancy

Networking Coffee Break

Building a Halal Business Community

Diane de Saint Chamaran, Co-Founder and COO, Wasabih – Halal Economy Professional Community

Mindfulness – Raising Resilient Kids

Neil Crossland, Principal – Secondary School – British International School Phuket

Becoming or Finding a Mentor

Poe Aye, Founder, Kickoff Marketing

First Hand, Changing Career Direction -Leading A Start- Up Company

Viona Zhang, Co-Founder & Managing Director, SAIJAI Homecare

Wrap Up and Closing Remarks

Event Co-Hosts

Sumi Soorian, Executive Director, Phuket Hotels Association

Viona Zhang, Co-Founder & Managing Director, SAIJAI Homecare

For more information and to register for the event CLICK

Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, nested in central Africa, adjacent to Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It’s best known to international luxury travelers as one of the three natural habitats of the endangered mountain gorilla species.

From our recent work on the ground in the country and market research, we are giving a snapshot of the country’s hotel and tourism sector in C9 Hotelworks Rwanda Tourism Market Review 2022 report. Without a doubt let’s lead off that this is one of Africa’s safest and cleanest countries and despite tragic events in the early 1990s, economic and social progress have created a strong springboard for success over the past two and a half decades.

From a hotel perspective, the market is still in the early stage of development with only four, five-star hotels in the country, flagged to Marriott, Radisson, Serena, and One and Only. Brand penetration is low, with 90% of accommodation being independent. There are 870 tourism establishments across the country with a total supply of just over 17,000 rooms and 57% being in the budget and economy tiers.

Kigali, the capital and gateway for the landlocked country has a vibrant business sector and a large-scale convention center which is becoming one of Africa’s leading MICE facilities. The city has a strong average room rate and occupancy trend. One key game changer in the market is the new Bugesera International Airport which is a partnership with Qatar Airways and is set to open in 2023. Rwanda is expected to become a regional aviation hub for passengers and cargo.

While tourism accounted for 19% of GDP in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the market is highly leveraged on Western bucket list travelers to the country’s three national parks. What C9’s analysis shows though is the gap in tourism attractions for both the growing domestic market and travelers from the border countries of DRC, Uganda, and Burundi which accounted for 75.1% of inbound travelers to the country during 2019.

Moving forward, Rwanda’s government has adopted Singapore as an Asian benchmark of how to attract global investors in a forward-looking vision of the country as a center of innovation and attraction as a trading partner. Infrastructure development is a high priority and public-private partnerships are promoted by the Rwanda Development Board as a fast track of progress.

C9 Hotelworks over the years has continued to provide development advisory and undertaken projects in developing markets in Africa. Some of these are highlighted in a series of reports that cover Zanzibar, Adventure Tourism, and Safari’s in Tanzania and more are set to come.

To download and read C9 Hotelworks’ full Rwanda Market Review 2022 report CLICK

As Phuket hotels emerge from the dark clouds of lockdowns and travel restrictions during the pandemic, there is still uncertainty over what may come in the waning months of 2022 and into next year.

Seasonality is a recurring challenge for many resort destinations around the world, and Phuket despite Thailand’s mass tourism surge in 2018 and into 2019, it continued to have its ups and downs. Coming into the cusp of high season, winter season airline schedules are seeing a sharp rise in international airlift and restoration of direct flights.

That said, the Russian market in 2019 which is marked by average lengths of stay between 9-12 days accounted for over 900,000 travelers to Phuket. This year, international sanctions on Russian airlines, the widespread drop of the Russian ruble, and political gyrations will likely see the winter snowbird market hit only 15-20% of this demand level.

Mind you, there will be Russians and they will be spending more and staying longer according to our talks with tour operators, but there will be far fewer of them. As for Mainland China, it looks as if this story is set to move into 2023 given its zero-COVID policy is unchanged.

For Phuket hotels, edging out of the pandemic and what is no doubt the start of a new business cycle, it’s important to see what can be learned from history. Combining STR and C9 Hotelworks data and analysis, the following charts show the demand or occupancy and average rate fluctuations within a given year and go on the show a ten-year pattern.

Phuket hotel performance - Occupancy 10 year trend

Phuket hotel performance - Occupancy 10 year trend

 

Speaking to the extreme swings between highs and lows of Phuket hotels over the past decade, STR’s Senior Director of Asia Pacific said “island occupancies have shown a fairly consistent pattern year-on-year, with some softening on the edges of shoulder season. Turning to a graph that shows annualized marketwide performance, it resembles a heart attack, with data showing that between June to January there is a 30% gap in islandwide demand.

Moving to room rates, historical data for the 10-year pre-pandemic period showed that average daily rates are 200% higher during peak periods, but that the lowest rates often occur for up to 6 months between May to October, regardless of occupancy.”

In other words, hotels continue a pack mentality and effectively double down on rates when the low season rolls around. It’s feast or famine for many hotels, and for some owners, they make up to 70% of their profits in high and peak periods. While the rest of the year, they try to eke out as much as they can in the lean times, often slashing labor costs through the use of contracted labor which is let go as demand drops.

What is apparent from the data is that the island’s highly leveraged mass tourism segments continue to be winter-centric. Wholesalers and/or tour operators that are specific to volume markets continue to have a massive influence on rates, and dynamic pricing falls over in the face of negotiated seasonal pricing. You can talk all you want about the future dominance of direct hotel bookings but the reality is on an island that is fast approaching 100,000 licensed hotel rooms according to C9 Hotelworks latest Phuket Hotel Market Review, volume markets continue to be in the driver’s seat.

So, what’s the answer to creating a more stabilized annual trading pattern? New markets such as the Middle East, especially Saudia Arabia where travelers embrace the rainy season will help. But, the fact is also that low periods will continue to exist and the best strategy is to lessen the rate differential between peak, high and low seasons, look at ways to generate more low season demand, and price up accordingly. There tends to be a trend that hotels simply look at their STR comp set and move rates in reaction to what competitors do.

For now, as Phuket moves into a new cycle, it is also an opportunity to change its approach to pricing and be bolder and more confident, given a likely return of airlift and yes, eventually China will return to the playing field.

Japan’s winter ski hotspot Niseko is set for a strong post-pandemic market rebound due to one simple thing – airlift. Timing is everything and the key touch point for airlines everywhere, moving out of a prolonged period of grounded commercial aircraft, has been to get them up and flying again onto high-demand routes.

In a right time, right place scenario, news of the 11 October 2022 lifting of restrictions of travelers to Japan and seasonal timing of airline winter schedules has created a potential windfall for Hokkaido’s international aviation gateway New Chitose Airport.

Singapore Airlines’ low-cost airline Scoot jumped the gun and was the first to announce a return of winter schedule flights commencing November. More recently Thai Airways will resume daily flights from the first of December this year. Last week Thai AirAsia X also made public plans to restart the Bangkok to New Chitose service in December.

The Thailand Hokkaido connection is driven by a strong Thai domestic ‘snowseeker’ market, and also Bangkok as an Asia hub for the broader international market transiting to Japan given favorable airfares. One key issue for Thais is whether a visa waiver will be put in place with the new reopening program, given a cost issue of approximately THB1500 and paperwork requirements. Japan has been slow to roll out extensive guidelines for the reopening which is creating some unrest for hotels and tour organizations in Japan.

Under a new mantra of ‘have plane, will travel’ the alpine destination of Niseko has seen winter bookings come at a blistering pace. Property developers in the destination are reporting a sharp uplift in inquiries given resort real estate is often an emotional buy, and potential purchasers want to get their boots on the ground, given the extended period they were unable to visit.

The newly released C9 Hotelworks market research report  Niseko Tourism and Property Market Review gives the forward outlook that the combination of the favorable dollar-yen exchange rate and pent-up demand will see a return to high transaction levels from this winter through the rest of  2023.

A selection of properties creating a buzz at the moment range from the luxury ski-in and ski-out hotel and branded residence development Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono, Zeikki Properties Intuition, Hinode Hils at Niseko Village, HakuVillas and the Andaru Collection. One key destination trait of Niseko remains that majority of tourism accommodation is in luxury and upscale condominiums and vacation homes and not traditional big box hotels.

Despite its airlift and demand trajectory, one immediate challenge for hotels and rental accommodations is how to gear up staffing levels for the upcoming winter, given the market typically relies on a large influx of foreign seasonal workers. Expect a strain on service levels for this season but moving forward the critical mass of international brands and impressive new developments bodes well for Asia’s dream ski destination.

Japan’s upcoming tourism reopening on 11 October has created an onslaught of bookings for the winter season in Asia’s leading alpine destination – Niseko. As the favorable dollar yen exchange rate and the low-interest regime have spurred investors’ interest. C9 Hotelworks takes a closer look at this dynamic marketplace.

Despite the government’s closed border policies shutting down the overseas market for over two years, Niseko’s domestic tourism has been resilient. In Q12022, total visitors to Niseko were 288,670, growing by 14% compared to the same period in 2021.

Niseko’s winter tourism market and high-value foreign segment is connected to the real estate sector.  As a result, commercial land prices in 2022 decelerated. This trend was also seen in residential land prices, where growth was 12% in 2022, down from 40% in 2020, and 25% in 2021. Comparing Niseko to other Japanese alpine resort areas, Furano was 18% and Hakuba 17%.

Hanazono, Hirafu, and Niseko Village/ Higashiyama remain the top three destinations in the project pipeline. There remains a strong push for luxury projects outside of the mainstream Hirafu area driven by the lack of prime land and rising prices.

Two factors that may hamper wider destination growth are aging ski facilities and potential changes to the area development and more restrictive zoning by the government.

In C9 Hotelworks opinion the restart of Japan’s tourism sector and favorable dollar yen exchange rate will revitalize the transaction market in the short to medium term, as pent-up demand will induce a market tailwind.

To read and download C9 Hotelworks Niseko Tourism and Property Market review CLICK

Since the easing of travel restrictions in Thailand, pent-up demand has continued to push travelers to Phuket.  The first half of 2022 created positive market sentiment, as the Island welcomed 1.78 million visitors, a 342% increase over the same period last year.

European source markets delivered higher volumes in the first quarter, while Asian source markets gained traction in international visitation in the second quarter. As regional countries in Asia reopened borders to overseas travel, Phuket has seen an influx of family-oriented travelers.

With an increase in international travelers, Phuket’s hotel sector performance is starting to see a recovery trend in occupancy. As a result of more airlift, the Island registered an overall occupancy rate of 31.5% in H1 2022, up from 5.1% in the first half of 2021.

The upswing in demand was highest on the Island’s west coast as the preferred choice of travelers.  Looking forward, a seasonal transition will see international scheduled and charter flight winter schedules come into effect at the end of October and continue through March 2023.

C9 is forecasting an optimistic outlook that Phuket tourism will continue recovering, albeit at a moderate pace moving into 2023. Factors driving this view are the continued zero-COVID policy in Mainland China, and limited airline seats for Russian snowbird travelers this winter season.

To download C9 Hotelworks Phuket Hotel Market Outlook 2022 CLICK

 

Russian travelers have ritually sought out islands in the tropical sun since the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Hellbent on escaping bitterly cold winters, these snowbirds in the lead-up years to the pandemic became the second largest international source market for Phuket’s mass market tourism surge.

Now, coming out of the pandemic in the age of a return to travel, the Russian-Ukrainian crisis has made tourists and airlines from Russia unwelcome in many parts of the world. Connecting Russia to Phuket has become an increasingly difficult proposition with most travelers transiting the Middle East on Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad or via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.

Thai Airways International has not been flying to Moscow for quite some time and Singapore Airlines discontinued service earlier in the year. Aeroflot announced the resumption of daily direct flights between Moscow and Phuket on 30th October 2022, though at last check was still awaiting final government clearance.

As the resort island waits and wonders about the upcoming high season, with its formerly ‘go to’ Mainland Chinese market unable to travel internationally, there is still a sense of uncertainty in the air. I often coin the term ‘you can’t stay there if you can’t get there’, and that is exactly the conundrum Russian travelers face this winter.

Some of the evolving alternative gateways to Phuket this coming winter season confound the common logic that the shortest distance between two points is a direct line. The former Soviet country of Kazakhstan has grown into a popular Central Asian hub with direct flights to Phuket on Air Astana and possible winter charters on SCAT and Sunday Airlines’.

Turkey remains in the picture where Mavi Gok Aviation who is part of the Anex Tour group is looking to create a hub in Antalya and fly to popular holiday destinations in Thailand, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Turkish package tour operators  continue to be a force to be reckoned with in mass tourism markets.

One of the more obscure upcoming options is via Laos where Ural Airlines has made public plans to fly from Vladivostok Siberia to Vientiane. From there Thai AirAsia connects to the locations in Thailand via Bangkok.

In a continuing storyline, a number of Russian airline carriers are on the EU’s air safety list and unable to operate within the European Union due to international safety concerns as a result of a ban on spare parts and equipment. This situation is exasperated given the United States sanctions on Russia that impact Boeing aircraft, which are used by many Russian carriers. So it could best be summed up that Southeast Asia is positioned as a ‘safe haven’ for Russian overseas holidaymakers.

Speaking to Olga Kurmakaeva who is Deputy Managing Director of tour operator Exotic Voyage in Phuket, she weighs in on the situation with “there are two main challenges for Russian travelers. The first is the cost of airfares which pre-COVID were between USD700-900 and now with few seats available has surged as high as four to five times that amount.

On the flip side, demand is strong and those who can afford higher airfares are snapping up tickets through any available route. The main impact on hotel bookings is the average length of stay which used to be nine to ten days, but is now being pushed up to fifteen as travelers rationalize the trip cost and look to stay longer.”

In the final analysis, there is no doubt that Russians will continue to be a top high-season source market for Phuket. But, the reality for island hotels and tourism businesses is that the volume will be severely impacted by considerably less airlift.  Realistically, until that situation improves, this looks to be a winter of discontent for many Russian snowbirds who are unable to get airline seats and won’t find their place under the sun, not at least this season.

Korean Air is returning direct service to Phuket from Seoul in October according to news reports.

Flights will operate four days a week, using a Boeing 737-800.

The carrier is also scheduling flights to Chiang Mai from Korea as well.

In the past, the Korean connection was popular for access to Phuket for not only travelers from Korea, but Japan and further afield, North America.

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