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Travel & Leisure

5-star beds for 2-star prices: Thai luxury hotels lure locals

Discounts and perks offered as closed borders crush tourism industry

BANGKOK -- The Thai capital is eerily absent of bustling tourists this holiday season. As the pandemic keeps foreign tourists away, the city's five-star hotels are slashing rates and offering added perks to entice domestic customers. 

A Marriott in downtown Bangkok unveiled a 1,212 baht ($40) per night deal to coincide with the Chinese "Double 12" sales campaign that began on Dec. 12. A Shangri-La Hotel has rolled out a 2,000-baht offer. These prices represent deep discounts from the 7,000 baht to 8,000 baht they usually charge.

"Many five-star hotels have no choice but to lower their prices to two-star levels," said Sammy Carolus, general manager at Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit.

As the nation requires a 14-day quarantine for foreign travelers, once the driver of Thai tourism, hotels have switched tack to attract affluent locals instead. Average room rates in Thailand slid 16% in October from a year earlier, according to hotel industry data provider STR.

Hyatt Regency has created a unique package dubbed the "One Million Baht Club," which includes stays for 365 nights as well as perks such as a checkup at a private hospital and access to a lounge at high-end malls.

"Services worth 3 million baht are offered for 1 million baht ($33,000)," Carolus said.

Minor International is closing money-losing hotels in Bangkok, the Dominican Republic and Belgium to cut costs, as the Thailand-based hospitality group concentrates resources on new businesses such as setting up cloud kitchens for food delivery service.

Thailand received nearly 40 million visitors in 2019, with tourism revenue reaching 1.96 trillion baht, or $65.3 billion.

The country's tourism industry has taken the third-biggest hit in value terms from the coronavirus pandemic behind the U.S. and China, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development estimates.

Thailand's government has rolled out measures to promote domestic travel, offering subsidies on hotel costs and creating long weekend holidays, but the situation remains bleak. Hotel occupancy stood at 24% in October, tumbling 65 percentage points from a year earlier, data from STR shows. The October-December quarter is usually the busiest season.

Even as countries start to approve vaccines, few anticipate an immediate rebound. The industry will not return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2021, predicts property group Asset World, which owns several hotels in Thailand.

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