TO DISCUSS YOUR PROJECT OR LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SERVICES:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

While the country’s doors remain firmly shut to international tourists, Thailand’s domestic travel wanderlust has turned Khao Lak into an Instagram hero. In the first two months of this year according to research by consulting group C9 Hotelworks’ new Khao Lak Hotel Market Update occupancies soared above 80 percent.

With the COVID-19 lockdowns occupancy plunged in April and May, but as domestic travel re-started mid-year on the back of government-initiated ‘We Travel Together ‘incentive, the destination has slowly but surely gained traction from both fly and drive-in Thai markets.

Khao Lak’s surf scene has become a national social-media sensation with Pakarang Beach and Memories Beach Bar the epicenter of a photo tourism movement – bolstered further by Instagram favorite hotels, Michelin Guide Southern-Thai restaurants, and the rediscovery of Takua Pa Old Town.

Over the past five years, the expansive white sand oceanfront strip of destination hotels in Khao Lak has continued a march North towards Takua Pa. Fueling much of this development is larger greenfield land parcels and a nearly completed four-lane highway expansion from the gateway airport in Phuket. C9’s report indicates a hotel supply of 114 registered tourism establishments with 9,542 rooms and a further 2,283 keys in the pipeline. With 73% of incoming supply being chain operated, the influx of global brands includes Pullman, Marriott, Sheraton, AVANI, and Holiday Inn.

Despite Thailand’s tourism downturn, some hotel owners are taking the opportunity to complete projects and launch their properties in the marketplace. One example is Kamontip Phunratanamala, Managing Director of Khao Lak Inter Co. and co-owner of the new 253-key Pullman Khao Lak Resort which will soft-open on December 1, who says “owning a hotel is a long-term proposition, you have to take a long-term view of the destinations’ tourism potential and take the bad times with the good times.”

Talking about the evolving geographic changes in Khao Lak’s hotel scene, while the panoramic pristine seaboard continues to stretch upwards into an emerging tourism Gold Coast, there is an increasingly grassroots ‘sense of place’ movement afoot. Take the Pullman’s commissioning of noted Thai sculptor Jatuporn (Yui) Wongtong also the co-founder of Artslonga. Her signature ‘Tree of Life’ sculpture that is installed in the arrival area is heavily influenced by the culture of Takua Pa and speaks of nature and indigenous materials.

Looking beyond the end of surf season which runs from just the after Songkran holiday period through November local hotels are pinning hopes that the government domestic travel incentive which is due to expire at the end of January will be extended to at least mid-2021 or until international tourists are allowed to revisit the country. Adding to that, the continued influx of social media bloggers and influencers heading South is already creating a ripple effect in demand, most notably with the Similan and Surin islands as day trips from Khao Lak. It may not be a typical high-season but for now, the domestic tourists are a welcome sight for stressed hoteliers and tourism businesses.

Download the report

It’s a busy week for C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications web series on hot travel markets and emerging trends.

On Wednesday 25th November  is Hostels + Hybrid Hotels. Dig the vibe and dive deep with an eclectic set of experts from across Asia and Europe. One clear sign of pandemic travel resurgence is millennials, groups of friends roaming the concrete jungle, and the domestic set of Instagram-driven travelers who value things local, and want experiences, not welcome drinks or breakfast buffets.

The live webinar is  3:00 pm Bangkok | 4:00 pm Singapore/Hong Kong | 9:00 am London. To register for the free event go to –

Hostels + Hybrid Hotels

Coming up Thursday 26th November is The Buzz – Khao Lak + Phang Nga, A Virtual Travel Guide on Getting Lost in Thailand.

Our journey starts with a fast-paced hotel and tourism market update from C9 Hotelworks on Khao Lak and beyond. Get inside the numbers with average rates, key markets, and look at the latest pipeline of new hotels. But wait, this isn’t just about numbers and graphs, it’s a visual travelogue to meet the people and see the places in one of Thailand’s fastest up-and-coming destinations.

Take a virtual road trip with us to see the latest buzz in hotels, tourism, and travel in Khao Lak and Phang Nga. Watch how Bangkokians are falling in love with surfing and flocking to Instagram heaven at Pakarang Beach.

Hit one of Thailand’s newest oceanfront golf destinations Aquella. Explore Takua Pa Old Town with its Chinese heritage, laid back street scene, and nearby amazing nature activities. Cook up a favorite Southern Thai dish at a Michelin Guide Restaurant. Listen to the artist and owner of one of Khao Lak’s newest beach resorts who are boldly opening their international branded hotel in a downturn.

The live webinar is 2:00 pm Bangkok | 3:00 pm Singapore/Hong Kong. To register for this event go to –

The Buzz – Khao Lak + Phang Nga

C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications hit to the road north of Phuket with a special Khao Lak and Phang Nga tourism and hotel update. The one-hour event will be held on Thursday 26th November, 2:00 pm Bangkok | 3:00 pm Singapore/Hong Kong.

Register free at the following LINK.

This special offering is a view from the ground on what’s new and trending in The Buzz – Khao Lak + Phang Nga – A Virtual Travel Guide to Getting Lost in Thailand.

Our journey starts with a fast-paced hotel and tourism market update from C9 Hotelworks on Khao Lak and beyond. Get inside the numbers with average rates, key markets, and look at the latest pipeline of new hotels. But wait, this isn’t just about numbers and graphs, it’s a visual travelogue to meet the people and see the places in one of Thailand’s fastest up-and-coming destinations.

Take a virtual road trip with us to see the latest buzz in hotels, tourism, and travel in Khao Lak and Phang Nga. Watch how Bangkokians are falling in love with surfing and flocking to Instagram heaven at Pakarang Beach.

Hit one of Thailand’s newest oceanfront golf destinations Aquella. Explore Takua Pa Old Town with its Chinese heritage, laid back street scene, and nearby amazing nature activities. Cook up a favorite Southern Thai dish at a Michelin Guide Restaurant. Listen to the artist and owner of one of Khao Lak’s newest beach resorts who are boldly opening their international branded hotel in a downturn.

This is the next episode in a series of virtual hospitality events from Delivering Asia Communications and C9 Hotelworks that are intended to create forward-looking conversations, inspire disruption, and a critical rethink of the hospitality space. Where do we go from here? Stay tuned.

The Places

  • Pakarang Beach, Khao Lak
  • Memories Beach Bar, Khao Lak
  • Aquella Golf and Country Club, Thai Muang
  • Old Town Takua Pa
  • Nai Muang Restaurant, Khao Lak
  • Pullman Khao Lak Resort

The Intrepid Travelers…

  • David Johnson – Delivering Asia Communications
  • Sumi Soorian – Same same as above, but different
  • Bill Barnett – C9 Hotelworks

Register

We had the chance yesterday to talk to Founder and Chairman of Banyan Tree and Laguna Phuket KP Ho.

Some of the topics covered in the candid shop talk included Thailand’s tourism prospects, hotels, Chiang Mai’s farm-to-table movement and what’s next for Banyan Tree.

KP also provided some comparison to his recent time in hotel quarantine compared to a short stint in prison many years ago.

Want to know which was harder? Check out the short video chat.

To view the video click the following link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cej_3iZ2hXw

Thailand’s leading resort island Phuket has come face-to-face with the reality that it’s tourism high-season will not see a marked reopening to overseas travelers. In the wake of the dismantling of the ‘Phuket Model’ and refocus by the government on using Bangkok as a single international gateway, there is increasing alarm over the lack of a path forward for the island’s rice bowl – tourism.

The key tourism indicator for the island is airlift and Phuket International Airport is the gateway for 70-80% of visitors to the destination. According to Airports of Thailand data, 121,530 passengers arrived in the month of September. This equates to just over 4,000 arrivals a day and a portion of these include local residents and business people. Comparing year-on-year data, 2019’s daily arrivals which included international travelers was five times higher.

Analyzing the toxic situation, there is a dramatic change in the market mix where the current domestic-led average length of stay for hotels is approximately 1.8 days, while for foreign travelers it’s more than double this amount. What this means for hotels is severely reduced overall demand across the island’s entire accommodation sector.

Looking forward to the high season when the numbers spike upwards in the four months of December through March, the high season months last year equated to more than one-third of annual demand.  Total domestic and international arrivals at the airport totaled just over 9 million in 2019.  Adding in high season shoulder months into the equation, the stark economic impact of Phuket’s economic seasonality is reflected in the fact that well over half of the island’s tourism arrivals are packed into a six-month period.

Now, nearly two months into that timeframe, what is apparent is it’s virtually impossible to save the high season and hotel owners in 2021 will be forced to contend with historically the lowest trading months of the year by May. Given these grim prospects, C9 is predicting large-scale job losses and business closures given there is no light at the end of the pandemic-induced tunnel.

Taking a 360-degree view on the restricted domestic-only demand, you have to take into account that Phuket’s current registered accommodation supply has continued to surge to its present size of 90,267 rooms in 1,773 hotels/tourism establishments. Of this supply upper midscale, upscale, and luxury properties of international standards are approximately 25% of the total rooms.

Data from leading data intelligence provider STR daily has Phuket occupancy averaging 10% with upward spikes on weekends at international standard hotels. Looking into the number though, the reality is domestic travelers are cashing in on cheap deals at upscale and luxury hotels.  Given limited visitor arrivals the far larger mid and economy tiers where most of the hotel inventory sits, are experiencing even lower occupancy. This domino effect is expected to prevail unabated throughout a sustained downturn and effectively crushes the smaller properties and local tourism businesses.

As Thailand’s government policy has maintained Bangkok as the sole entry point for a limited number of travelers from overseas under the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) program, a number of hotels in all tiers are operating under the scheme. Hotel performance data for Bangkok from STR is reflecting occupancy just above 25% for international standard hotels, though again in the broader marketplace demand is at considerably lower levels.

In Phuket, many hotels pinned high-season hope on the now-aborted ‘Phuket Model’ to allow Special Tourist Visa’s (STV’s) aimed at long-staying visitors, which is logical given the island’s legacy winter ‘snowbird’ market from Northern Europe and Russia. Putting the Alternative Local State Quarantine program at the head of the reopening tourism initiative, 17 Phuket hotels have been approved and 21 applications are under process. Properties who have undertaken both the expense and time in qualifying for the status have been shut-out, given the government’s about-face policy of centralizing all overseas arrivals into Bangkok.

What is unclear is the logic in policy flip flop on negating the island’s essential tourism lifeline. Using smaller contained resort-focused islands would appear a logical risk mitigation strategy that was echoed in all of the hype over the ‘Phuket Model’ but after the dust has settled, it ultimately failed to launch.

The time has come that Thailand must gain confidence from international benchmarks, such as  the tourism dependent Maldives. According to data from the nation’s Ministry of Tourism, in October the destination recorded 21,514 tourist arrivals. This trend is again on the rise in November and looking back the country has safely managed the reopening of its borders since mid-July. Another nearby island, namely Singapore is set to put an overseas travel bubble into place within this month to Hong Kong (SAR).

Putting Phuket’s economy debacle into perspective losing this high-season will further intensify the catastrophic impact on the island’s business owners and the livelihoods of the vast majority of residents. Given the sheer size of the hotel inventory, it cannot survive only on domestic visitors, cheaper airfares, or by adding more public holidays. For Phuket, this high season, faced with the prevailing arithmetic the island can only wait and wonder what comes next.

Live and In-Person. Thailand’s largest hotel and tourism event returns. The 10th Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF) 2021 will be held in Bangkok on Monday 18th January at the Conrad Hotel.

This will be an ‘in-person event’ and is organized by C9 Hotelworks and AMCHAM Thailand together with STR, Horwath HTL, JLL, QUO, Delivering Asia Communications and Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

Event registration will open in late November and will be limited to SHA standard event guidelines. Stay tuned for the program coming soon.

If you are a hotel owner or developer, operator, tourism business or investor, this is the place to meet and learn about Thailand’s hospitality market.

Just over the Sarasin Bridge in Natai Beach or Greater Phuket, Thai real estate firm Cissa Group has made public preliminary plans for the Natai Medical Center and Resort. Cissa is teaming up with the Bangkok-based V Plast Medical Group.

Cissa last year acquired the 103-key Natai Beach Resort and plans call for an expansion of the land area to include a Medical Center. Expected offerings would include anti-aging, alternative medicine, physical therapy, and integrative health. Cissa is reportedly in a fund-raising stage for the project.

Making headlines recently is the proposed THB4 billion medical hub in Mai Khao in Northern Phuket. A 141-rai site that falls under Thailand’s Treasury Department and various government departments would be developed in conjunction with the Public Health Ministry.

Plans call for extensive health services including rehabilitation, hospital, and long-term care. While this development was a hot topic during last week’s Cabinet visit, the site has had a number of aborted government projects over the years included a now-shelved international convention center.

Another project which is merging medical tourism and biotech is Thanyapura Sports and Health Resort partnership with SC21 (StemCells 21). The facility is offering premium stem cell treatments, with the key focus on anti-aging, immune disorders, and degenerative diseases.

The Phuket clinic is expected to draw a global audience also addresses various injuries with a regenerative medicine approach and also other medical problems,

On the wellness side Tri Vananda, just North of Talang in Phuket is under development by the Montara Hospitality Group whose most notable project is the ultra-luxury resort Trisara. The former is a planned resort and residential integrated that is focusing on integrative and functional medicine and cognitive wellbeing.

With an overall plan calling for 298 villas, initial construction of the project has already commenced.

Staying on the less is more approach to tourism and the high-end is the Renew You Asia facility. Here the offering is cellular and regenerative medicine along with curated luxury holidays.

Based on an island in Phang Nga Bay, this project aims to appeal to a discreet and elite clientele base.

All of this is resonating with the current economic policy of the country both in incentives though the BOI (Board of Investment) and biotechnology sector promotion.

Thailand’s tourism industry is sadly at the short end of the stick as policies gyrate over the reopening of the country to international travelers, yet no single province has more to lose than the resort island of Phuket. Phuket’s economic engine is leveraged on tourism. It’s a place where on a combined basis, one in every two residents comes into the tourism equation at some point in their daily work lives.

Let’s roll back the clock a few months to a time of cautious optimism when the Tourism Authority of Thailand touted the ‘Phuket Model’ and creation of the SPV (Special Tourist Visa) program. Tailor-made for long-stay visitors and promoted as a unique vehicle to restart the country’s overseas travel market in a well-suited resort environment. The truth is the initiative has somehow become a dead-on-arrival victim in an uncertain and ever-changing series of policy flip-flops.

Late last week the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced that all overseas arrivals to Thailand must stay in ASQ facilities in Bangkok. This news came as a stunning rebuke to provincial hotels including many in Phuket that had spent extensive time, expense, and business planning to apply for ALSQ (alternative local state quarantine) status only to have the rug pulled out in once again another policy about-face.

In retrospect, despite the many shortcomings of the doomed “Phuket Model”, it commercially spoke to a strong historically-proven winter ‘snowbird’ market of long-stay international visitors. Coming from Northern Europe and Russia, these seasonal legacy markets are not sensitive to a fourteen-day quarantine given their typical stay is measured in weeks and months, not in days, unlike short-haul regional travelers.

As we now sit in November the reality is the indecision has now squandered the immense opportunity of at least creating a working model or prototype for returning overseas tourism to the Kingdom. From a market perspective, the hard yards were already done in that demand was there the minute temperatures dropped in the Northern Hemisphere.

Instead, and illogically in my opinion the push back to Bangkok, which may only really be suited for business travelers makes little sense to tourists who face the prospects of two weeks in an urban box. What is more non-sensical is the idea of actually promoting larger-scale Bangkok tourism at a time when the Instagram or social media images visitors post on social media are punctuated by disruptive demonstrations.

So how did Bangkok win the restart of the tourism stakes? The issue comes down to who will fight for Phuket? Both Bangkok and Pattaya City are the only two specific Special Local Government Administration areas in Thailand. Phuket despite being a leading tourism economy has a provincial government led by a turnstile governor post that is rotated on a regular, often erratic basis. The resort island has no long-term tourism master plan, lacks consistent economic policy, and at the end of the day, the lack of continuity is seen everywhere across the island.

What is vital to understand here is the dire consequences facing the island’s hotel and tourism sector as a result of the sinking of the “Phuket Model.” Quarterly, the first three months of every year is a primary contributor to tourism revenue, and only now are businesses starting to come to terms that there will be no high-season relief this year. Domestic travel demand across the board is sub ten percent of hotel demand and the industry cannot maintain break-even cash flows without more demand.

While some five-star hotels, especially those featuring Instagram features have been able to attract recurring domestic business, the domino impact of luxury and upscale hotels offering midscale pricing has crushed demand in three and four-star hotels. It’s a false economy and while it’s everyone for themselves, the sector cannot survive a sustained downturn on domestic-only business. Something has to give, and that crisis is evident everywhere you look.

Despite the Thai consumer class traveling in packs throughout the country and cherry-picking cheap deals, the economic tragedy hits home on low—income earners, who live out of sight of the tourist areas and who’s rice bowls are, and continue to remain empty in the wake of an uncertain future.

There remains optimistic chatter about a return of tourism in the second or third quarter of 2021, but in reality, no one knows the answer to that.  For Phuket, that traditionally experiences highs and lows in seasonal tourism trading the harsh view is that a wider reopening will now be pushed into the first quarter of 2022. With that, next year is essentially a gap year, one that has severe negative economic prospects ahead for hotel owners, and tourism businesses.

So, what’s the way forward you might ask?  Thailand has to come to grips that it must learn to live in a Covid-19 environment and cannot risk total isolation. Even with a vaccine possibly coming, the impact will only come over a longer period. Tourism has to co-exist with COVID, there is no way around it.

As for the island, a “Phuket Model or Phuket Visa” remains a logical proposition and should not be thrown out the window. Advocacy for Phuket to become a Special Local Government Administration needs to find its way onto the national agenda. And to answer the question of who will fight for Phuket, the answer is every single tourism stakeholder, hotel, or business on the island. Stay strong Phuket and #fight4Phuket. It’s the only way and there is indeed strength in numbers.

Bangkok Airways has announced the return of flights between Phuket and Koh Samui.

According to the Phuket News service commences Sunday, October 25th leaving Phuket at 12:20 pm and arriving in Samui at 1:15 pm.

There will also be a resumption of flights between Phuket and Hat Yai between Phuket and U-Tapao (Pattaya).

The return of flights is a positive move to connecting these key Thai markets.