KHAO LAK, Thailand, 26 November 2020: While Thailand’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% ahead of the late March lockdown. Occupancy plunged in April and May, but as domestic travel resumed mid-year on the back of government-initiated ‘We Travel Together ‘incentive, the destination has slowly but surely gained traction from both the fly and drive Thai markets.
Khao Lak’s surf scene has become a national social-media sensation with Pakarang Beach and Memories Beach Bar the epicentre of a photo tourism movement – bolstered further by Instagram favourite hotels, Michelin Guide Southern-Thai restaurants, and the rediscovery of Takua Pa Old Town.
C9’s report indicates a hotel supply of 114 registered tourism establishments with 9,542 rooms and 2,283 units 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.
Talking about the evolving geographic changes in Khao Lak’s hotel scene, C9 Hotelworks managing director, Bill Barnett, points out that “while the pristine seaboard continues to stretch upwards into an emerging tourism Gold Coast, there is an increasing 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, Barnett says “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.”