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Asia Minute: Thailand may try cheaper hotel rooms for locals

Tourists lounge under umbrellas along Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand 051122
Salinee Prab/AP
Tourists lounge under umbrellas along Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, Friday, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Salinee Prab)

Visitor traffic to Hawaiʻi is now running at more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels — and that’s even with a continuing slump in tourists coming from Japan. But the hospitality industry is still struggling in many parts of the world. And that includes one Southeast Asian country that may try a new approach to help the industry — and local residents.

Thailand’s Tourism Ministry has come up with a new business idea.

The basic thought is for hotels to charge two different rates — a higher one for foreign visitors, and a cheaper one for domestic travelers.

Prices have been slashed across the board at properties around the country as operators scramble to make up revenue lost during the pandemic.

Travel is picking up.

The Tourism Ministry reports international arrivals nearly quadrupled from January to May of this year — but that’s starting from a low base.

On July 1, Thailand’s government relaxed a number of travel restrictions.

Masks are no longer required, and a color-coded system of rating risk levels and allowable activities has been dropped.

Visitors with proof of vaccination can skip a PCR test on arrival.

This week, a government spokeswoman said the pricing move is related to maintaining Thailand’s tourism brand for international travelers.

The Deputy Prime Minister compared that brand to Louis Vuitton — saying “the more expensive, the more customers.”

One key group that hasn’t yet publicly weighed in on the topic: the hotel industry.

The Bangkok Post reports the Tourism Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand will be holding talks with the Hotel Association of Thailand “shortly.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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