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Selfie-Drive Holidays May Help Thailand’s Early Tourism Recovery

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selfie-drive holidays, Thailand, tourism

As Thailand slowly recovers from the coronavirus pandemic that paralyzed the tourism sector selfie-drive holidays may be the future in Thailand. Selfie holidays in Thailand are expected to rise as local residents seek safer forms of travel.

After nearly two months of lockdown and travel restrictions, Thai tourist are raring to head out again. Even more the most eye-catching destinations are those that they can access with their personal cars.

Last week’s C9 Hotelworks report indicated that family beach destination in Hua Hin is primed to benefit from this trend. Above all 75 per cent of the resort town’s visitors in 2019 were domestic tourists.

Bill Barnett, founder of C9 Hotelworks, indicated that “both overnight stays and day trips look to be the agents of change in the short-term.”

According to data from STR, domestic tourism has proven positive for destinations like Hua Hin. Helping to prop up market-wide average room rate at the 4,000 baht (US$125) level. Which “in many of other Thailand’s resort destinations rates have been flat. Even more in some cases rates retreated in the face of mass tourism and appreciation of the Thai baht,” stated Barnett.

More Thais taking selfie-drive holidays

Jaffee Yee, PATA Chiang Rai Chapter chairman, foresees more Thais possibly taking selfie-drive holidays for the near future. He reasoned that costly air travel, fewer flight options as well as social distancing and hygiene requirements could deter air travel.

With prices of fuel at an all time low, “selfie-drive vacations are more carefree and enjoyable. Selfie Tourists driving can stop anywhere and stay as long one desires,” he added.

Beach destinations in the south and the east, and possibly along long routes like Bangkok to North Thailand, would likely do well with the self-drive segment.

Jaffee also pointed out that post-pandemic leisure travel trends may shift. Consequently shifting to less crowded places with plenty of open air environment. Natural and cultural spots like Hua Hin; Koh Chang; Koh Samed and the mountain resorts of Chiang Rai (Phu Chi Fah, Doitung; Doi Mae Salong); Chiang Mai (Doi Suthep, Inthanon; Doi Luang); Pai and Maehongson.

Jaffee is presently working on initiatives to revive cross-border selfie-drive holidays. Such as selfie-drive holidays from Yunnan, China to North Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. He also foresees selfie-drive tourism potential between Thailand and Myanmar. And also between Thailand and Malaysia.

Overseas tourist arrivals are expected to be weak

Andre van der Marck, founder and managing director of Travel Exclusive Asia, expects selfie-drive holidays to pick up especially among the wealthy Thais. Wealthy middle class and up, and who have their own vehicles. The selfie-drive holiday trend may stay for months, before Thais return to overseas destinations.

Amid the changing landscape of tourism business, Nattapong Saengsirirattana, managing director of Thai Leisure Co., told TTG Asia that he might try his hand at the domestic market. Thai Leisure Co, has all along focused on the foreign market. However overseas arrivals are expected to be weak until the end of the year.

“Right now it’s hard to wait for foreign tours to come in. If the Thai government can get the virus under control, reduce restrictions and let Thai people travel, we may adjust our business plan to accommodate Thais,” he said.

However, van der Marck is doubtful that domestic selfie-drive holidays will bring much needed business to travel agencies.

“I’m not sure if (travellers) really need a DMC to handle such trips. Thais are a hard and rough market; everyone can drive and book a hotel via Agoda. But it could be something for local DMCs who are really Thai oriented to look at,” he said.