The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has just extended the ban on international passenger planes landing in Thailand to 30 June 2020. This now means that the earliest foreigners can come to Thailand is in July. Presuming that is they don’t extend the ban again. Starting July Thai International Airways despite its difficult situation is planning to re-open all their European routes except for Italy. Travel to the Land of Smiles and the City of Angeles may become a reality again this summer.
Whilst no dates have been given it is imperative that Thailand looks to re-start its tourism business. This will be a long, hard road with vast challenges and changes ahead. We look at some tips and hints that may help small and medium-sized Hospitality Businesses in Thailand, get ahead of the pack as the first guests appear.
MARKETING CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
These will be challenging times and do not expect the flow just to start again. Initially there will be very few foreign tourists due to flight limitations and proof of health, so your main initial target audience should be local Thai people and the foreigners living in Thailand, primarily Bangkok. There are a lot of people who have not been able to travel and a few days by the beach (when they open), will be the break that they need. Exclusive, quiet retreats will also be popular as people start to lose their anxiety of seeing other people and yet maintain social distancing.
Use this time to update your Website, Facebook page and any other social media outlets that you use. Use new pictures that will entice this audience. There are many exPat/Farang groups on Facebook that will allow your posts at no cost. Market Parity may become irrelevant at this time as the first guests may have many specific requests, therefore price sensitivity may not be the highest priority. However keep the process sensible (no dumping) but try to maintain level local pricing.
The immediate future of OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies, Booking, Airbnb etc) is not yet clear and my recommendations for initial bookings will be for direct reservations until people lose their inhibitions/fears. However again, take the time to update your pages, use new photos, and inform future guests of the steps that you have taken for cleanliness and disinfection.
Bloggers can be effective if used carefully.
Bloggers can be useful for several reasons. First, they live in your hotel/guesthouse and write their first-hand experience which they post on their blogs for example. Be sure to secure the right to be able to use their material and also their photographs for your own promotions. Be certain to also share their posts on your own Facebook pages. A great deal of the ‘new’ business is going to reply on the personal/verifiable experience and this is a cost effective way to acquire third party assessment to complement your brochure/online copy.
Trip-Advisor will remain one of your most valuable marketing tools. Don’t worry the whole world is going to have a gap in their comments due to the virus! Some Bloggers double up their effectiveness by also posting their reports on TripAdvisor. Be sure to use this time to answer any comments that are on your page and be ready to receive new.
How is the new travelers going to be thinking about travel? Whilst a necessity today, I don’t believe that a Temperature Check and a dollop of hand sanitizer is going to make them feel safe as they arrive. Look at your cleaning and disinfection procedures. Make certain that they are thorough and will re-assure the guest that you are doing everything possible to ensure that they will not contact Covid-19 when staying with you. Maybe rotate rooms ensuring that the room has not been occupied for 72 hours. Do everything to reassure your guests that you really do take their health very seriously.
How guests are going to maintain Social Distancing is a challenge that all will face? Be certain to provide all opportunities for this and ensure that your staff are extremely careful and wearing masks at all times. It is not going to be easy especially if this retched virus keeps reappearing around the world. Guests will slowly want to start to mingle but you will have to be very careful how you manage this as you do not want your property to become a hotspot for a flareup.
Thai hospitality is some of the best and friendliest in the world. Thailand has the great advantage of the serene Wai as welcome, but how will this new look with facemask, visor, and possibly gloves. Guests will need to be re-assured but not scared by hazard suits.
Thai Hospitality is legendary and will prevail again however the challenges ahead are many and have never been faced by humanity before.
Good luck to you all. Be strong but be forever watchful.
Main Image Credit: Transport Executive