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Tourism in Songkhla bounced back strongly last month after the government cancelled the Thailand Pass system, with about 100,000 foreign arrivals recorded last month.
The rebound has prompted Malaysian investors to buy hotels and bars in the border town of Sadao in anticipation of a boom, said Tourism Council of Songkhla president Somphon Chiwawatthanaphong.
The number of tourists visiting the province had jumped since the Thailand Pass was scrapped on July 1 – especially via the Sadao border crossings and Ban Prakorb in neighbouring Na Thawi district.
He added that official July figures had not been released but he expected them to show at least 100,000 arrivals, jumping from 40,000 in May and 60,000 in June.
Somphon said Thais are also returning in large numbers to Songkhla’s tourism hub of Hat Yai city. Many are flying in before travelling on to Yala’s Betong district, he added.
About 80 per cent of Songkhla’s 40,000 rooms in both registered and unregistered hotels have reopened, he said, adding the rate would rise to 90 per cent late this year.
His council expects about 800,000 foreign tourists to visit Songkhla this year, mostly from Malaysia and Singapore.
Pre-Covid, Songkhla received about 2 million foreign tourists per year, according to Somphon.
Pre-pandemic, most hotels and bars in Sadao were owned by Malaysian investors but they sold them following the outbreak, he said. However, many have now returned to buy back the businesses, he said.
Somphon said most hotels in Hat Yai did not change hands as banks had been lenient with them during the Covid crisis.
“Banks did not want to seize their assets and now that hotels have resumed business, they have started to repay debts,” he said, adding that occupancy rates during last week’s long weekend rose as high as 70-80 per cent in Hat Yai.
However, he said Covid-19 had shown the need to restructure tourism in Songkhla.
Among other things, tourism businesses were diversifying to lure customers from different groups and markets.
The council is trying to attract tourists from Europe by asking Bangkok Airways to open new routes to Hat Yai from Koh Samui and Bangkok.
It will also promote Songkhla Lake as a tourist destination while campaigning for Songkhla to be awarded Unesco world heritage status along with places like Penang in Malaysia. The city is among several destinations that the Thai government has selected for nomination to Unesco.
The council is also encouraging Thais to travel to Songkhla by train. Trains are running again twice daily on the 60km route from Hat Yai to Padang Besar. He said tourists could also take the Butterworth train from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The council also plans to collaborate with Prince of Songkla University to draw international sports events to the city, Somphon said.
Published : August 02, 2022
By : THE NATION