Samui, Thailand: If you can’t beat them – join them, appears to be the thinking of a tourism association on the resort island of Koh Samui, who wish to develop their own hotel booking website.
“The new site will provide an additional option for those travellers looking for a good deal on room rates, besides which it should increase our hotel operators’ role in the market,” said Sittha Eckul, a member of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, who is in charge of developing its website technology.
“We currently don’t have enough potential to compete with global players like Agoda, but the site is considered an option. What do you think would happen if we did nothing over the next 10 years? The more tourism grows, the more money the global booking giants (OTA’s) earn outside of the country,” he said, adding that local hotels had lost more than Bt3 billion to online booking sites over the past decade.
“It is unfair to allow such players to regulate the market at the expense of the hotel owners who have invested a lot of money in construction, he said. The collection of high commissions on the existing sites slashes the hotels’ margins, denting the sector’s growth in the long term.”
The Samui website initiative is in line with a concept used elsewhere. Malibu, California, has developed its own online booking site offering collective hotel rooms to travellers, with the aim of strengthening its local tourism community and preventing exploitation from outside online operators.
Sittha Eckul said that at present, the global sites charged commissions of up to 25 percent to hotels, and sometimes even 40 percent during the low season.
The Samui hotel operators’ site will be run by the association on a non-profit basis. It will charge only 5 percent to operators, while offering the same room rates as quoted by Agoda and Booking.com and other international rivals.
The amount levied will then be returned to the community via a fund to be spent on the island’s development. This will serve as a model for other major tourism destinations in the country, if successful.
In the early stage, the website will be a platform for Samui hotels, of which at present there are more than 500. The service will later extend to hotels on nearby Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan, which are also among the top Thai destinations for international tourists.
The total number of hotels covered in the three islands will exceed 1,000, he said.
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said the Samui initiative was a good one, and added that he had a similar initiative in mind to create a website that would be used as a model to help hotel operators around the country.
He is in talks with the Information and Communications Technology Ministry about creating such a model website.
In principle, Somsak said, the website would charge a commission of between 7 and 10 percent to operators.
After covering management costs, up to half the amount levied would be returned to local communities in the form of a fund. The ICT Ministry has a budget to move forward with such a website’s development, he added.
The minister was in Samui recently to preside over the official opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting discussing the tourism industry under the theme of “Impact of Trusted Traveller Programmes on Tourism in the APEC Region”.