Golf tour operator reports surge in bookings but demand slow in Hua Hin

Mark Siegel, Managing Director, Golfasian

Golfasian, one of the leading golf tour operators in Southeast Asia, has reported a surge in bookings since Thailand reopened its borders to tourists.

But while Hua Hin was once the company’s best selling destination in Thailand, the surge in demand hasn’t yet been seen in the resort.

“Before COVID, Hua Hin was our largest and best selling destination and we brought in more than 10,000 people per year to Hua Hin alone,” Mark Siegel, Golfasian Managing Director told Hua Hin Today.

From March 2020 Golfasian went into what Mark calls a “hibernation mode” where operations were scaled back due to no international tourists visiting Thailand.

The introduction of the Test & Go scheme last year then meant that people were able to visit Thailand once more.

“Since November 2021, we’ve basically been running at 150 percent and having a hard time keeping up with so much demand,” Mark said.

But it was Phuket, rather than Hua Hin, where people were booking golf tours.

Mark says because of the Phuket Sandbox, Phuket was much better prepared to handle an influx of foreign tourists due to less restrictions right across the board, from hotels, to entertainment and golf courses, with island officials better prepared to handle any issues related to the pandemic.

By contrast, Hua Hin essentially missed out on an influx of foreign golfers, and no doubt other tourists, due to the rules regarding Test & Go.

Initially, the government stated that anyone arriving in Thailand under the Test & Go scheme were required to proceed to prearranged accommodation within a three hour travel time of Suvarnabhumi Airport, where they were required to wait for the results of a RT-PCR test.

If the test was negative they were free to travel anywhere in Thailand.

For most visitors this meant that they would need to spend one night in a hotel in Bangkok as they were unable to travel to Hua Hin directly after arrival at Suvarnabhumi.

“We actually avoided Hua Hin and moved our business to Phuket because it is just much easier to operate”.

Mark says that because people were not able to travel to Hua Hin by air, the rules meant that travel to the resort was more difficult than to Phuket.

Mark said the situation is starting to improve and that more people are now starting to visit Hua Hin, after the rules were relaxed to allow destinations within a five hour travel time to also be included in the Test & Go scheme.

A photo of an event held previously in Hua Hin organised by Golfasian – Centara World Masters Golf Championship, which returns later this year in May.

However he still called on the authorities to make it easier and standardise the requirements for people traveling to the city.

“We couldn’t understand, for example, why Thai tourists visiting Hua Hin are not subject to any testing, yet foreign tourists are, especially when they end up mixing at their hotel or around town anyway .”

Despite the initial issues, Mark says Golfasian has received a lot of forward bookings for Hua Hin from May onwards.

“We are now getting lots, and I mean hundreds, of bookings per week for Hua Hin.”

“There is a tremendous pent up demand for Thailand in particular”, said Mark.

“People have very fond memories of their trips here and are willing to do whatever it takes to come back”.

Mark says that while people are eager to visit Thailand, he also expects regional neighbour Vietnam to see demand from foreign golfers.

“The one good thing about the golf industry in Vietnam is that throughout the pandemic they continued with the construction of many golf courses.

“There must be about 15 courses in Vietnam that have only just opened or are about to open”.

Mark was speaking ahead of the Centara World Masters Golf Championship which takes place in Hua Hin between 8-14 May, 2022.