As the holiday season approaches its peak, the Thai capital of Bangkok remains unusually devoid of the bustle of tourists. As the pandemic keeps foreign tourists away, the city’s five-star hotels are slashing rates and offering added perks to entice domestic customers.

Big names, such as a Marriot in downtown Bangkok has recently announced rates as low as 1,212 baht (US$40) per night to coincide with the ‘Double 12’ sales campaigns and began on 12 December. Other hotels such as Shangri La offered 2,000 baht offers. This represent very deep discounts from the usual 7,000-8,000 baht.

“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.

With strict quarantine rules being a requirement for foreign travellers, Thai hotels have instead began to shift their focus towards attracting affluent locals instead. Average room rates in Thailand slid 16 percent 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 (US$33,000),” Carolus said.

Tourism is among one of the key factors which contributes to Thailand’s economy. The country’s tourism industry was also among the top worst hit in value terms from the coronavirus pandemic behind the US and China, the UN 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 percent in October, tumbling 65 percentage points from a year earlier, data from STR shows. The October-December quarter is usually the busiest season.

While many countries are now in talks about acquiring vaccines for Covid-19, it is still very likely that it will take some time before we see a rebound in tourist numbers. Experts predict that we will not see a return to pre-Covid levels of tourism until about the second half of 2021.

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