The chairman and CEO behind the acclaimed Hua Hin health resort speaks about his property’s response to the global crisis and the future of travel.
What is the current situation in Thailand?
As of now, the rate of new Covid-19 infections has dropped to zero while the lockdown measures are being relaxed step-by-step. A close watch of the combat against the virus is, nonetheless, being maintained.
How has Chiva-Som had to adapt to this new reality of social-distancing measures and sweeping travel restrictions?
Since the emergence of the pandemic, Chiva-Som has adopted the precautionary measures against Covid-19 with the safety of all stakeholders foremost in our minds. As such, we have closed the resort since April 1 and started working from home.
As travel restrictions and other measures became the new normal, we have since launched a number of online services, such as health and wellness tele-consulting, tele-training and wellness cuisine delivery. All are geared to help our clients maintain the wellness lifestyle at home. Furthermore, we are sharing a collection of on-demand wellness content and hands-on tools across the resort’s digital channels to alleviate the lockdown condition. Highlights include tips on boosting the immune system and achieving restful sleep.
What are the most significant challenges facing your business right now?
That would be the ongoing travel restrictions. As for the strict hygiene standards, we have already adopted them from our inception and wholeheartedly welcome the latest requirements.
Of course, switching from direct to electronic communication, and yet retaining the warmth and intimacy, poses an obstacle, but this can nonetheless be overcome. With our commitment to delivering personalized solutions on the platform of cutting-edge technologies, we will retain the Chiva-Som brand’s uniqueness way beyond the new normal.
What steps has the company been taking to stay afloat in these uncertain times?
Sustainability has always been one of our core practices. Hence we have opted not to overstretch ourselves in terms of business strategy and maintain fiscal prudence. The said practice is now helping us deal with the extraordinary circumstance without having to resort to drastic measures like debt restructuring and staff layoffs.
The ongoing crisis has, on the other hand, presented the opportunity to implement the services that have been in the pipeline for a while, some of which have already been mentioned. We look forward to introducing more in due course.
In your opinion, which consumers and markets will lead the recovery of the travel and tourism sector?
Undoubtedly, the Thais and foreign residents in Thailand who are in need of wellness and human reconnection will lead the way. Next are travelers from the countries where the virus has been tamed. Fortunately, they will not have to travel so far and we look forward to welcoming them.
Wellness tourism will grow even faster than before, especially with the realization that wellbeing and a robust immune system are key to combating any future viral infection or pandemic. In other words, wellness will be the most sustainable form of tourism going forward.
What lasting changes do you think we’ll see in the industry after the pandemic passes?
The industry or for that matter, the world, will never be the same. Stricter hygiene standards and stringent anti-virus measures will be the norm. All types of business will be much more wellness- and/or hygiene-oriented to meet the demands of the stakeholders. And people will be much more selective in deciding on their travel destinations.
The digital platform of services will be an inevitable option, although the direct human interaction will always be sought after. Hence those in the wellness industry that can achieve excellence on both fronts will be the most successful.