Phuket readies for lockdown; MICE industry to get support

Aerial view of a resort in Phuket

Phuket’s announcements over the past weekend have most of its hotels considering temporary closures, as the destination’s land and sea borders have been sealed off, with a looming cessation of air transfers from April 10-30 due to Covid-19.

Currently, its beaches have been closed, and a curfew from 20.00 to 03.00 is in place. Tourist attractions such as zoos, animal shows and Patong’s walking street have also shuttered.

Aerial view of a resort in Phuket

Anthony Lark, Phuket Hotels Association’s (PHA) president, commented: “As travel has almost ground to a halt, the island’s hotels and business that cater to travellers have been (badly) hit in terms of business levels.”

“Most Phuket hotels anticipated these rules being imposed by the government, and our main concerns are for the safety and health of our staff. We support the measures the government is taking to stop the spread.”

As Phuket’s tourism industry braces itself for an impending lockdown, PHA is also preparing to support its members going forward.

One of PHA’s initiatives is a MICE recovery programme that will be released at a timely moment, and as soon as the industry is on the verge of a rebound. It includes an e-event planners’ guide which features all Phuket hotels, venues and event offerings. Short clips and videos on venues will also be produced and shared by hotel association members.

While there has not yet been an official announcement on closure of hotels, local hotels are already in preparation mode, based on a letter of guidance from the Phuket governor addressed to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).

However, without a clear order from the authorities to close, affected full-time, formal hotel employees will be ineligible for benefits from the Thai Social Security Fund (SSF), and properties will find themselves bearing the brunt of subsidising their hard-hit businesses.

But Lark remains optimistic that the island will emerge from this even stronger once the storm blows over.

“Phuket’s inbound MICE business was growing well, particularly for the Indian market with the increase of direct flights. We expect this to continue after the travel restrictions are lifted. Phuket hotels were also (anticipating increased business pre-Covid-19), upsizing their MICE venue capacity to cope with influx and demand from major markets like China, Europe and Australia,” Lark shared.

He added that Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s increased budgets and action recovery programme in response to the Covid-19 crisis will also help the industry weather these tough times.

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