More than 400 tourism leaders and industry gurus gathered in Bangkok on Monday 22nd March, in a safe and socially-distanced format, for the 10th annual edition of the Thailand Tourism Forum 2021 (TTF), Thailand’s premier travel, tourism and hospitality powwow.
Hosted at Conrad Hotel Bangkok, and organised by C9 Hotelworks hospitality consulting group, this year’s TTF took place amid the biggest crisis tourism has ever faced: the COVID-19 global pandemic. Against this unprecedented upheaval, many of Thailand’s leading hotel operators and other key players came together under the #ThaiTourismUnited banner, creating a single unified voice to drive the Kingdom’s recovery.
Despite the challenges faced by hoteliers and tourism providers in Thailand this year, registrations for TTF 2021 were full in three hours for the in-person event during which guests were presented with a content-packed agenda featuring some of industry’s most respected figures, including owners, presidents and chief executives.
The event kicked off with a “Thai Hotel Leaders’ Roundtable” discussion which saw the CEOs of Thailand’s biggest hotel groups discuss ways to revive the country’s tourism and hospitality sectors. The top-level debate included Thirayuth Chirathivat, CEO of Centara Hotels & Resorts; Stephan Vanden Auweele, Chief Hospitality Group Officer of Asset World Corporation; Bill Heinecke, CEO of Minor International; Dirk De Cuyper, CEO of S Hotels & Resorts; Marisa Sukosol, President of the Thai Hotels Association; and Salanroj Sutaschuto, Director of the Central and Eastern Regional Office of the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau.
Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks, kickstarted TTF 2021 in his own inimitable style, with an opening address entitled “Lost in Thailand, The Ultimate Survival Story.” Attendees were then able to choose from a series of quick-fire “Bang Bang” forums and discussions, including an economic assessment of Thailand’s tourism sector; an overview of the Kingdom’s beleaguered aviation industry; an insight into innovation and disruption within the hotel sector, and many more.
One of the most eagerly-anticipated sessions saw Jesper Palmqvist, STR’s Area Director for Asia Pacific, reveal the latest hotel performance data and analysis for Thailand, including forecasts for the future.
Mr. Palmqvist said: “After a particularly challenging January 2021, Thailand’s hotels at least end the first quarter with similar patterns as seen by the end of 2020. There are early signs of reservations in June but also some for November-December. In light of Thailand’s dependency on international arrivals… the STR forecast for Bangkok has been downgraded for the full year of 2021. We do foresee 2022 as a bigger comeback year on many fronts across the country.”
Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks and organiser of TTF 2021, commented: “COVID-19 has impacted almost every country on Earth, and while Thailand has enjoyed considerable success in controlling the spread of infections, the pandemic’s impact on tourism has been cataclysmic. International visitors previously accounted for more than 70% of tourism spending in Thailand, so this year’s border closures have left a huge hole in the economy. But the recovery starts here; TTF 2021 is a unique opportunity for the Kingdom’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry to unite, unify and usher in a bright future.”
In its 10th year, the Thailand Tourism Forum is organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AMCHAM) and hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks (Bill Barnett).