Crisis-hit Hotels Up For Sale

May 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Local News & Event

Over 100 affected as recession, political turmoil hit tourism
By Nirmal Ghosh, Thailand Correspondent

BANGKOK: – More than 100 hotels and resorts are reportedly up for sale in Thailand as hotel occupancy plunges to historic lows on the back of the worldwide recession and the country’s political turmoil.

Two cases of H1N1 influenza found in Thailand now pose yet another threat to tourism.

‘This year is the worst for our hotel industry in 20 years,’ Mr Chanin Donavanik, chief executive officer of the Dusit International chain, told The Nation daily this week.

The hotels for sale or auction range from five-star properties to small basic establishments, the paper reported. They are concentrated largely in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

‘Business is very, very bad, and the future looks absolutely bleak,’ the outgoing general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Mr Kurt Wachtveitl, told foreign journalists on Tuesday. He estimated that hotel occupancy rates were just 20 per cent across the board. The 72-year-old, Thailand’s most senior hotelier and an industry legend, plans to retire next month.

‘This is the perfect storm, for Thailand in particular – but wherever we (the Mandarin Oriental group) have hotels, in the first three to four months of the year, business is 20 per cent down,’ he said.

‘Nowadays, nobody is booking ahead. Now is the time when bookings come in for July-August, but everybody is waiting to see what the world will look like – and waiting until the last minute.’

The Oriental – consistently rated one of the world’s best hotels – has 45 suites which are usually highly sought after, he said. But not one has been booked.

One problem even with affluent customers, is that they do not want to be stuck in the country – as was the case when ‘yellow-

shirt’ supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) closed down Phuket airport and took over Bangkok’s two airports for several days last year in an attempt to force the government of the day to quit.

The airport closures struck at the heart of the economy – especially tourism. Mr Wachtveitl called it an episode customers will ‘remember for the rest of their lives’.

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