Pimalai’s Silver Lining
It has been a few months since Thailand officially reopened its borders to international travellers. The expected surge in arrivals has not materialised and currently roughly 5,000 people a day are being granted entry to the Kingdom. However, there are some in the hospitality industry who see a silver lining in the figures and are preparing their respective properties for a rise in occupancy rates through confirmed bookings. One such hotelier is industry veteran Charintip Tiyaphorn, Owner Representative of Pimalai Resort and Spa.
Charintip, who is also President of Krabi Tourism Council of Thailand, has been working hand in hand with Krabi Tourism, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Krabi Province in unity to reopen the whole of Krabi province for international tourists. The challenge was to come up with procedures to ensure that everyone will be safe and will win from the reopening including the local residents, people working in tourism industry and tourists.
As an experienced hotelier, Charintip knew there would be demand for Krabi once the province announced its reopening. And in the days after reopening announcement, Pimalai confirmed 30 reservations and many of these were former guests who were returning. One of its long-term customers confirmed they will visit us again from 30th December until 9th January. For the record, this will be the sixteenth time he and his family have stayed with at the luxury, beachfront resort.
“It’s a case of so far, so good. We are seeing familiar names popping up in our booking system and our occupancy rate has increase 30-40% since the government announced the reopening. Looking longer into next year, again our occupancy rates are up by as much as 55%. This is good news for my staff who, like many others on the island, have faced tough times. There was so much uncertainty about Covid-19 and how long it would last. Now, they can feel the good vibes that our business is coming back. And we are slowly adjusting back to pre-Covid-19 situation in terms of number of staff, salaries and reopening our second restaurant outlet at the property. The bars on our beach started to reopen too, which was a very good signal,” said Charintip.
While the overall mood from the government is positive about the arrival of international guests, there have been some reports that tourists are already flouting the rules on masks and social distancing. As has been reported in Thailand mainstream English language media, Thai authorities are threatening tough action against tourists who do not wear a mask in public with fines of up to Bt20,000. Even though all new arrivals must be double-vaccinated and have presented a negative PCR test upon arrival, there are many nervous onlookers.
“Luckily our property is spread over 100 acres of land and we have 900-metres of pristine beachfront. So, we are naturally practicing social distancing. We do not have air-conditioning public areas so we only require our guests to wear a mask when they go to the buffet line, which is well accepted by our international guests,” she adds.
And the fear over covid and the new strain is all too real as people can be infected without showing symptoms. To try and mitigate the possibility of staff infecting a newly arrived foreign guest – or vice-versa, Charintip has implemented a strong resort-wide sanitation programme. First of all, Pimalai staff are 100% double-vaccinated and recently received a Pfizer booster jab. The award-winning resort has been awarded SHA+ Certification and has also rolled out its own stringent Pimalai Care Programme, which deals with hygiene and safety protocols.
“We have done all we can to create the safest environment for our guests and our workers. This included passing the Covid Free Setting regulations called Thai Stop Covid Plus as laid down by the Ministry of Public Health. Also, to give confidence to my frontline staff, everyone undergoes an antigen test every month. We’ve installed divider screens on our canteen tables so when staff have their meals, they are not directly in contact with another person sharing the same table with them.
“If we look around the region, I think Thailand is pushing ahead and doing very well in managing the virus. Elsewhere, Vietnam, Bali, Singapore and the Philippines – even China – they are all still closed but we are now open. Not so long ago, many people were saying the vaccination rollout was a mess, but we are now seeing 1.2, 1.4 million people a day receiving their Covid vaccine. We have to accept that this virus will be with us for a long time and we can’t just put all our focus on this one disease. Instead, we need to adjust ourselves to live with the virus,” she says.
“The ongoing Covid-19 situation has taught us many things especially about survival skills. Before Covid-19, 90% of our guests were from overseas. When the borders were closed, we had to try everything to get attention from domestic tourists. Thanks to the technology, we were able to reach out to new group of customers and we started to see that Thais and expats living in Thailand become our regulars. This is like an opportunity for Thais to explore new destinations in Thailand too. I also used this opportunity to experience staycations in Bangkok.”
During the closure of international borders, the accolades have not stopped arriving. For example, this year alone Pimalai was voted by Travel + Leisure‘s readers as the second best in the Southeast Asia Resort Hotels category at the 2021 World’s Best Awards; the resort was chosen to be a part of 26 hotels in the Considerate Collection of The Small Luxury Hotels of the World; it was named TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best in 2021; became a finalist in the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2021 Luxury Spa Shortlist as Best Treatment Menu; and earned the title Highly Commended in the Mystery Inspectors Award category, to name but a few.
“I’m not one to rest on my laurels and while we truly value the awards and recognition we receive, we always have our eye on the future and how we can improve. Right now, we are fighting with all we have to get back to where we want to be. I am hopeful that in 2023 we will have the same number of guests as we used to have before Covid-19.
“Looking around the region, I think Koh Lanta will recover very soon. We have 20 international flights from Nordic arriving in December 2021 and Scoot will start flying from Singapore on 24th December 2021. If Omicron is not as strong, I think it will not stop people from travelling. We had a few cases where our guests could not fly because they were infected with Covid-19, but they have only postponed their trip while they self-isolate. We are confident these customers will be holidaying with us very soon.
“It’s been a pleasure to focus our marketing strategy on the Thai market. As a Thai, it was enjoyable to do it and it was such an honour for us that many Thais became our regular customers.
“We’re planning to do more work on the landscaping and refurbishment of the hotel. We’ve worked hard to keep the smile on our staff faces throughout these past two years. The renovations to our Hillside Pool Villas is now in progress and we expect to finish it before the peak season, there has been a big change in Kid’s Club with more activities and creative programmes and we have launched a new treatment menu at our award-winning Pimalai Spa, Elsewhere, some touch-up work is being carried out in a few guest rooms and villas,” says Charintip.
It appears that even though Omicron is a concern, it will not stop fully vaccinated people travelling and enjoying their holidays in the sun. Pimalai Resort & Spa is ready to welcome visitors from all countries so that they too can experience this amazing resort.
For more information and reservations, call +66 (0) 2320–5500 or email: email@example.com.