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Thailand Sees Early Results From Visa-Free Travel Period for Chinese Tourists

Alan Woinski

October 4th, 2023

Skift Take

  • Philippines sees over 4 million foreign tourist arrivals in 9 months, exceeding tourism spending targets.
  • Thailand’s visa-free travel policy for Chinese tourists results in a 30% increase in hotel bookings, approaching 2019 levels.
  • Various developments in the hotel and tourism industry, including a new skyscraper in Tokyo and changes in travel intentions worldwide.

Philippines’s tourism secretary said the number of foreign visitor arrivals to the Philippines in the first 9 months of this year has topped 4 million, accounting for more than Php316 billion in tourism spending. Their target for the year is 4.8 million foreign arrivals, so they will most certainly top that projection. South Korea remains the top tourist market with 1.04 million visitors, followed by the US, Japan, China, and Australia. Chinese visitation is only 194,209 arrivals so far. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, Chinese visitor arrivals totaled more than 1.7 million.

With 133,458 visitors to Macau on Monday, they have been averaging 132,578 visitors per day in the first 4 days of Golden Week. The total of 530,312 is quite respectable for 4 days, considering the last pre-Pandemic October Golden Week in 2019 totaled 974,337 for the seven days. Of the total 530,312 visitors, 385,823 have come from mainland China, while 110,990 have come from Hong Kong.

DidaTravel said the Thailand government’s decision to implement a five-month visa-free travel period for Chinese tourists starting from September 25 until February 29 has had a great response. DidaTravel said they have seen Chinese travelers’ bookings for Thailand hotels achieve 30% growth immediately following the implementation of the policy compared to the same day last week. This year’s Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays have resulted in hotel bookings in Thailand rising 700% from last year, which was not so hard, but DidaTravel said demand is approaching 2019 levels. Average Daily Rate is up 42% year on year. Dida said Chinese travelers had shown a strong preference for cities such as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and the islands of Koh Samui, Ko Phi Phi, and Krabi. With the visa exemption scheme, Thailand is expecting 4 to 4.4 million Chinese tourists this year.

IHG Hotels & Resorts announced they are partnering with MMS Land to debut the first Vignette Collection hotel in Indonesia. Rumah Luwih Bali has 74 rooms and suites. It will join the IHG system later this year before fully converting to a Vignette Collection property in 2024 following an extensive refurbishment. The colonial-style mansion is nestled amidst lush greenery with views of Mount Agung and the ocean, located within an undiscovered corner of Bali within an hour’s drive of the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport. Facilities include an all-day restaurant, swimming pool, meeting rooms, a fitness center, and a spa. IHG has 24 open hotels and 15 hotels in its Indonesian pipeline.

Hilton launched the DoubleTree by Hilton in Varanasi, India. The hotel has 144 rooms and includes 20,000 square feet of event space. The hotel is being opened under a franchise agreement with JHV Construction.

PH Resorts Group Holdings said they signed a memorandum of understanding with Cebu-based property developer AppleOne Properties for a potential investment into its stalled Cebu Integrated Casino Resort development, Emerald Bay. PH Resorts was supposed to do this property with Bloomberry Resorts, but Bloomberry pulled out after a due diligence period. The MOU with AppleOne is non-binding, and there are various options they are discussing, including AppleOne taking control of the project with a majority position. PH said AppleOne could invest to obtain either a majority of the equity interest in the subsidiaries that control the proposed development or acquire some or all the assets comprising Emerald Bay and its associated land. AppleOne could also walk away from the project. PH Resorts said they did make some real progress as they restructured their existing outstanding debt with China Banking Corp through the execution of agreements for the sale and leaseback, with an option to buy back certain land and improvements of the subsidiaries. The restructuring covers the 12.5 hectares of land upon which it had been developing Emerald Bay in Mactan, Cebu. The subsidiaries can also repay the Peso Bridge Loan Facility extended by Chinabank in 2018.

Star Entertainment Group has enlisted agents to try to sell its Treasury Hotel and Casino in Brisbane, Australia. The Australian Financial Review said Star is hoping for offers of more than A$200 million for the property, which would include the Treasury Casino building, Treasury Hotel building and the associated car park. All are set to be vacated once Star opens its A$3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane development in April 2024. McVay Real Estate said they were one of those appointed to pursue a sale. Star previously had a sale and leaseback deal with an investment firm to sell the Treasury Brisbane assets for A$248 million and lease back the hotel and carpark for 30 years, but that fell through in June.

One of Caloundra, Australia’s most centrally located hotels – Motel Caloundra – has opened after a complete reimagining of the former Caloundra City Centre Motel. Hotel developers and designers Andrew and Lucy Pink partnered with Maeva Hospitality’s Scott Armstrong to strip the hotel and transform the property, which is located opposite the Events Centre and the site of the proposed Sunshine Coast Regional Gallery. The nine-room Motel Caloundra had rooms and bathrooms redone and new double-glazed windows installed, amongst many other changes. As part of the redevelopment, a family suite and apartment were added, both offering two bedrooms, living areas, private balconies, and car spaces. Rooftop solar panels were installed, allowing the hotel to operate most of the time without the need for external energy sources.

Construction of a new skyscraper, set to be Japan’s tallest building with a height of about 390 meters, has begun near Tokyo Station. The developer is Mitsubishi Estate Co and Torch Tower is expected to be completed in March 2028. It will house an entertainment hall with a capacity of around 2,000, the UK’s Dorchester Collection branded luxury hotel, offices, and an observation facility.

A new report by Morning Consult shows that, after years of inflation and rising travel costs, the era of “revenge travel” may be coming to a close. According to The State of Travel & Hospitality report, travel intentions are increasing in several countries but flat-lining or falling in others, most notably in Europe. Intentions to travel dropped 11 percentage points in France and six in Germany. Interest to travel also fell in Canada and Russia (-4 percentage points each). Pent-up demand was expected to have greater staying power in Asia-Pacific, where Covid border restrictions were kept in place longer than other parts of the world. Pent-up demand fueled travel in AP in the first half of 2023, but since then, the trend has begun to reverse, noting a drop in Singaporean visitors to Malaysia following a surge in late 2022. Japanese enthusiasm to travel remains muted, with just 53% of respondents planning leisure travel in the next 12 months, the lowest of the 15 countries in the survey. Travel is booming in China, though. As the country celebrates the Golden Week holiday, domestic bookings are up nearly 6x, and outbound bookings more than 20x, year-on-year.

Alan Woinski

October 4th, 2023

Companies: AppleOne Properties, Dorchester Collection, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, IHG Hotels & Resorts, MMS Land, PH Resorts Group Holdings, Star Entertainment, Vignette Collection

Locations: Australia, Bali, Brisbane, Cebu, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Tokyo, Varanasi

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