“Can I get back to you once I know exactly what the situation is?’’ - That was the answer on the end of the line from one of the hoteliers I was talking to about doing an interview.
Cancellations are not new to me or anyone else in the business; another Covid-19 wave hit Thailand over the Easter weekend. This time, it was traced back to an exclusive club in Bangkok along with a party in Phuket and now it’s widespread again. Bangkok has now been declared a red zone.
I know two people who tested positive, one from each of the ‘ground zero’ places. One of them is asymptomatic, and the other has mild symptoms including fever, coughing, and body aches. This time around, Covid-19 is very close to home.
To Lock Down or Not To Lock Down?
Suggesting anything at this point will have consequences. Suggesting a lockdown also means suggesting that all shops be closed; people will lose their jobs, suppliers will go out of business, and basically life won’t continue the way it used to be.
I had a conversation with a bartender at a very popular Bangkok restaurant bar just last night about how his bar used to make a minimum of USD$3,000 and sometimes closer to USD$30,000 per day. Today, it’s barely hitting USD$1,000 per day, and the average tip he pockets now is around USD$0.80 per day after sharing the tips out with the whole team.
So, that’s what lockdown and alcohol bans look like.
On the other hand, the decision not to lock down just led to this third wave that we’re enjoying now. It started with an exclusive club frequented by rich and powerful locals and certain politicians which has become a scandal in itself. A few people picked up Covid-19 one night and one of them traveled to Phuket to ‘that other’ party - the one where my friend subsequently tested positive, along with several other prominent people in Thai society.
Prior to this chaos, we were still under strict rules of social distancing, strict hygiene measures, and safety protocols. It seems that at these two parties people forgot that they were supposed to keep their distance, wear a mask, and stay fully dressed to avoid exposure and the rest has made Covid history.
My personal experiences with the two previous lockdowns weren’t all that bad. The first time round I got to spend time with my newborn baby and ordered food from hotels to support the industry. The second time, I stopped my staycations but still ordered booze delivery from hotels.
If a third lockdown happens, I’ve decided that I’ll move for a time to the beach and call it a year - something that many Bangkokians seem to have already done. But there are people who have no choice to move anywhere.
If you are a hotelier reading this, you know how fragile the situation is, especially if you’re an expat with a family and fearing for your job - international school fees don’t come cheap, and are low hanging fruit when it comes to cost cutting for owners. It could be you. That would most certainly happen if your hotel has to close for good, and it might happen if another lockdown is ordered and your poor owners run out of cash to stay afloat.
So what would the best solution be for this? We are just waiting for the next government announcement, which could happen any minute, and is also liable to change at very short notice. One such example of announcements that have been doing the rounds is that restaurants and bars are not allowed to play music in our neighbourhood at least as it might encourage people to dance and act irresponsibly and subsequently transmit Covid-19. Yes, that’s the world we’re living in right now.
Have we gotten it yet?
“Have we gotten it … yet?” is a running joke amongst Thais. This time around Covid-19 testing has been made more accessible than last year. Last year, where you would only get tested if you showed symptoms, this time around, if there’s even the slightest chance that you might have it you can get tested. The result? Hospitals are now running out of test kits, not to mention running out of beds for those who’ve tested positive.
We are all finding that it’s better to act as though we all have it and to take precautions by keeping up social distancing, keeping our hands clean, and keeping our masks on.
Restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores that are reported to have been in contact with Covid-19 positive cases must close for 14 days and undergo deep cleaning and then monitor their staff to see whether they test positive.
Until the vaccine solution becomes an effective approach to combat Covid-19 in Thailand, the only solution we have is to take responsibility for our actions and take every precautionary measure possible to stay safe both physically and financially.
Does staying open but maintaining social distancing policies make business sense? You will all have to do the math case by case. The current situation is not pleasing anyone, nor are any of the solutions. In the meantime, it’s very important that you as a hotel brand don’t have your name associated with parties, crowds, or anything that could be a potential risk.
Some owners might be able to get away with flexible interpretations of the rules, but others don’t have that luxury, and in the end, we all lose out. Always act as your brands’ guardian. I’m a customer and I want to associate with brands that I can trust, especially during this time. Can I trust you and your brand?