Maintaining Thailand Hospitality Industry in the Time of the Coronavirus
The tourism and hospitality industry comes hand in hand with law and order and the absence of health-related concerns; the industry is fragile and subjected to global and local issues alike. The Arab Spring in 2011 brought political, economic and social turmoil to Egypt, a country relying in part on the revenues from the tourism economic sector, and led to a 18.3% decrease in hotel room capacity and the decline continued every year afterwards.
The recent Coronavirus outbreak, Covid-19, has led to an impressive international response limiting the spread of the virus. And while the number of cases is steadily increasing, the event is still considered as localised epidemics.
However, the economic repercussions are already felt and they are to become heavier for China as well as the rest of the world. In Thailand, the tourism industry represents around 20% of the country’s total GDP. The Sars outbreak in 2002 caused a severe negative impact on the Thai tourism industry, with tourist arrivals declining by 4.4%. The Thai Tourism Ministry now predicts at least 50 billion baht (£1.2bn) in revenue cut because of the lack of tourists.
Now, these are not end times and the economy will rise up again, but such moment requires to put in place a PR and online strategy to limit the financial repercussions. In order to counterbalance the reduced number of Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand, tourism and hospitality businesses need to take action in order to look around and to the West, and welcome tourists from Oceania, Europe and North America markets, all the while restoring confidence; or to be precise, to weigh in on the lack of danger. Certain hotels in Phuket are still bearing the mention that their establishment is risk-free in terms of tsunami, and while talking and reminding people about such terrible event 16 years after might be counterproductive, each individual hotels and restaurants need to implement a marketing strategy to show how aware they are about the Covid-19 virus, from basic protective measures to deeper controls. All the while reassuring guests about the putting the emphasis of the attractive destination.
Hospitality companies cannot wait for a response from the Thai government that will take time to come into fruition, they have to take initiative. In the coming months that may extend to years, competition will be more fierce between actors of the tourism industry, as tourists choose other destinations for their holiday. The bad news is that the steps taken by the hospitality industry in terms of online marketing are still in their infancy, relying mostly on spending money on paid advertising through paid media such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads. Expansive communication is necessary for the hotels to prevail during these hard times, ready to answer questions guests have about the situation and showing life is going on as usual albeit with a few precautions taken.
Tourists turn to social media in order to get their information about the destination they are going to visit, this includes the situation of the country as well as the establishment they are going to spend their stay in. There is a good opportunity for hotels to use these tools and present Thailand as a tourist destination is safe and their own establishment has not been the theatre of a Coronavirus case. Brand advocacy is a cornerstone of such digital marketing campaign to effectively prove the experience is still unique to Thailand. By having guests comment on their stay, hotels can improve their standing to demonstrate the measures they are taking in the face of the virus outbreak while not disrupting. Influencer campaigns will show and tell the story of an amazing journey in the Kingdom of Thailand, and excite envy for a unique experience available at the tip of their fingers.
In the case of Egypt, social media has proven to be an effective tool to reach out to potential tourists and start a dialogue about the current situation to clear any doubts and avoid any misconceptions about life in the country after the events of 2011. If the hospitality industry in a country such as Egypt can steadily rise up since 2014 after a revolution, with great marketing and promotional efforts not to resolve the crisis it was set in, but to ensure sustainable business; then Thailand and its hospitality companies are up to the task to protect their industry and not to let another year go by and demolish the marketing efforts undertaken up until now.