How Thai hotels adapted to survive and provide quarantine with comfort
It used to be hard to imagine the word “quarantine” would come up in conversations about travel. That was until 2020, when “quarantine” and “isolation” became familiar to most people, if not by having to be in one, then with the concept at least.
Thailand has a program, whereby hotels can be part of the quarantine system. Though there are state quarantine facilities, provided for incoming Thais, some people want something a little more comfortable for their 14 days of confinement. This is where Alternative State Quarantine, or ASQ, comes in.
There are currently 137 hotels in Bangkok alone participating in the program. This does not include what is called “Alternative Local Quarantine”, or ALQ in popular tourist locations such as Pattaya, Phuket, or Samui. Bangkok has about 18,000 rooms available, and the occupancy rate now is only at 50-60 percent.
137 hotels sounds like a lot, but there are many hotels out there that decided not to join the scheme, partly because the process of turning the hotel to be a quarantine facility is not easy.
The president of ASQ/ALQ Thailand, Ekachai Srikureja, told Thai PBS World that it can take up to eight weeks to convert a hotel, and everything about the process is challenging
He said that the preparation process took from 3 to 8 weeks for the hotel to meet the Ministry of Health’s standards and requirements, and the hospital partner would come in to inspect and train all the staff about 3 to 5 days prior to opening.
“Everything is difficult, yes, overall. It’s pretty difficult to maintain and run an ASQ hotel. There are many different, small things which have to be looked after and looked into to make it successful,” Ekachai added.
Ekachai said the changes and the preparation are also expensive. Basically, all the rooms have to be refurbished.
“We have to remove the carpet, or we cover the floor with plastic, to prevent it from getting dirty. The ventilation system, the air-con system, will be tested and re-checked by the Ministry of Public Health, as well as the water and sewage system.”
On top of that, in an attempt to keep their guests entertained, some hotels provide yoga mats, dumbbells, and other fitness equipment, or even PlayStation.
The day Thai PBS World met Ekachai, he was attending part of an inoculation campaign for ASQ hotel staff, one of the measures which will help staff build up their immunity and provide them with a greater level of safety, as they work on the frontline to welcome and care for the arrivals.
Thailand began rolling out its national inoculation program at the end of February. So far, however, less than 5 percent of its population has been vaccinated. The Public Health Minister says they hope to be able to inoculate 70 percent of the population, or 50 million people, by the end of the year, including foreigners in Thailand.
Since April last year, the hotels in the ASQ program generated 2 billion Baht in revenue for the country already, a number that Ekachai said everyone in the hotel industry worked hard to achieve.
When the quarantine period was reduced to 10, and 7 days, in April, it got the ASQ hotels all excited about welcoming tourists back, but with the current surge in COVID-19 cases, resulting in a return of 14-day quarantine, which Ekachai said might stop people from coming.
It’s a tough time, he said. Ekachai, however, hopes the country will be able to open for tourists in October this year, given that most people in Thailand should be vaccinated by then.
by Tulip Naksompop Blauw