Thai Operator to Reopen Hotels as Worst of Pandemic Seen Over

Centara Hotels & Resorts, owned by one of Thailand’s richest families, is preparing to reopen properties shuttered in the wake of a new wave of coronavirus outbreak, betting wider global vaccine availability and easing containment measures will revive tourism.

Centara, the hospitality unit of Bangkok-listed Central Plaza Hotel Pcl, will also open eight new properties in countries, including Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Markland Blaiklock said. The hotel chain, controlled by the Chirathivat family, expects a resumption in regional traffic in the third quarter and some international travel in the following three months, he said.

Thailand has relaxed curbs on businesses and travel after a new wave of infections eased and it’s now betting on nationwide vaccine rollout to revive its tourism-reliant economy. The Southeast Asian nation saw foreign tourist arrivals slump to 6.7 million last year, a fraction of the 40 million visitors in 2019 who generated more than $60 billion in revenues.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us, and we’re now in reopening mode,” Blaiklock said in an interview in Bangkok. “We have a lot of catching up to do to recover from what we’ve experienced since March last year.”

Blaiklock expects the group’s hotel business to return to pre-pandemic levels as early as 2023, echoing findings of a recent survey by U.S.-based Harvest Hosts, which said 76% of the participants plan to travel more than last year, although it will mostly be domestic travel in 2021.

“People are ready to get out and go,” said Joel Holland, chief executive office of Harvest Hosts, adding that more people will travel abroad from 2022. “It’s going be an explosive return to international travel.”

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