Thailand tempts wealthy travellers with luxurious lockdown

Thai hotels battered by the coronavirus pandemic are selling a niche product to help tide them over: luxury quarantine packages for passengers arriving from abroad.

Thailand’s government has allowed five hotels in and around Bangkok to accommodate guests who require “special services, at their own expense” as an alternative to state quarantine.

Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok, operated by the Swiss hotel chain and owned by one of Thailand’s largest hospital groups, is offering a five-star, Bt58,000 ($1,832) “Homecoming Health Watch” package. It includes airport transfers, full-board for 15 nights and outdoor walks in the hotel garden.

The hotel, whose management had considered closing when the coronavirus outbreak began, initially advertised the offer for Bangkok residents who wanted to isolate voluntarily from their families after being exposed to the disease. 

“We put the package out, and then people who were in obligatory quarantine started calling us,” said Bruno Huber, the resort’s general manager. “It was a nice fluke.”

Thailand was the first country after China to report Covid-19 cases. It has been relatively unscathed by the virus with 3,082 confirmed cases and 57 deaths. 

However, the pandemic has caused a collapse in the economically pivotal tourism industry, in which medical tourism plays a growing and lucrative role. 

Thailand’s forays into paid quarantine packages coincides with the country’s decision to reopen to international travel soon as the UK and other countries introduce mandatory quarantines.

The south-east Asian kingdom requires all passengers arriving from abroad to submit to two Covid-19 tests and spend 15 nights in isolation.

Online commentators who have passed through Thai state quarantine, which is free, have described adequate but spartan accommodation at hotels or military facilities, sometimes with two people per room.

Bangkok’s Qiu Hotel, which offers a Bt32,000 “alternative state quarantine” package, is already receiving bookings for July, its co-owner Maysa Phaoharuhan said.

The offer includes full-board with three choices per meal and “unlimited” visits to nearby Sukhumvit Hospital. 

Royal Benja Hotel, which offers a Bt45,000 quarantine package, is advertising “luxurious deluxe rooms” with 24-hour room service and city views. 

“We have spacious bathrooms, and from every room you can see a panoramic Bangkok view and make you feel relaxed and not too stressful when you need to be in the room for two weeks,” said Nawarat Thamrongvithavatpong, the hotel’s head of marketing communications. 

Guests can also relax by the pool at certain times, although swimming is prohibited under Thai quarantine rules. 

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Thailand’s airspace is closed to most incoming commercial flights until June 30. However, thousands of Thais who live overseas have returned since March on chartered repatriation flights, and account for most guests paying for “alternative state quarantine” packages.

Foreign expatriate workers who live in Thailand but endured coronavirus lockdowns in other countries are expected to begin returning in large numbers when the flight ban ends.

Thailand had more than 168,000 foreign work permit holders as of March, according to labour ministry statistics. 

Follow John Reed on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites