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Poll finds most Thais starving for holidays

Workers are increasingly taking short breaks

Thai workers are the seventh most vacation-deprived globally, according to an Expedia study. (Bangkok Post photo)

Thai workers are the seventh most vacation-deprived globally, according to an Expedia study that examines vacation usage and trends across 19 countries and territories.

Expedia released the results of its 18th annual Vacation Deprivation study, finding that global vacation deprivation is on the rise and that workers in Thailand took the fewest number of vacation days in the world in 2018, alongside Japan and the US.

Using data from 300 full-time working adults in Thailand, the study said 80% of Thais agree that they deserve more vacation days than they are given, ranking fourth highest in Asia after Japan (54%), Hong Kong (86%) and India (82%).

Lavinia Rajaram, head of communications at Expedia for Asia-Pacific, said more and more workers are taking short vacations, which could be due to public holidays falling on a weekend, thus encouraging long weekend holidays. Thailand is a good example of that.

"While bigger trips are great, a quick break can drastically improve quality of life," Ms Rajaram said.

According to the study, Thais unplug better while on vacation, but 74% say they would cancel a vacation due to work.

Some 24% of Thais go six months or longer without a vacation, with 42% going three to six months a year without time off. Considering that time off is so precious, one might be surprised to hear that almost a quarter (24%) of Thai workers admit to checking work email/voicemail at least once a day while on vacation.

While this behaviour has stayed mostly consistent over the past decade, younger workers are the least likely to check in frequently, at 19% for 18- to 34-year-olds, compared with 31% for 50 and up.

The pressure to be available may be self-imposed, as only a small number of respondents say their managers (17%), junior staff (10%) and clients (12%) expect them to check in daily while on vacation.

The top three reasons for Thai workers not to take a holiday are they don't know where to go (27%), they're saving up time for a long holiday (25%) and they can't get time off work (24%).

Most Asians have the hardest time leaving work behind when taking a vacation. Asian countries also have the highest incidence of cancelling or postponing vacation plans because of work. Levels of vacation deprivation vary by industry, with those in agriculture (71%), marketing and media (67%), and food and beverage (64%) being the most vacation-deprived.

In Asia, the biggest barriers to vacation are financial (54%), the desire to bank vacation days (23%) and the inability to get time off work (17%).

The study uncovered good news for those scarce on funds or time. Whether a long vacation (week or more) or a short one (2-3 days), people post-trip liked themselves more, felt more confidence in their ability to solve problems and felt more hopeful and outgoing. Longer vacations seem to yield slightly better outcomes, with each positive result seeing a roughly 10% boost compared with two- and three-day trips.

Some 42% of Thais use short trips to fight vacation deprivation in between longer getaways, while 35% say they regularly take vacations whose primary goal is "mental wellness". They overwhelmingly see vacation as a chance to "hit the reset button" on stress and anxiety.

Thai workers also report taking an average of two mental health days a year, which most feel should be considered vacation days (82%) rather than sick days (18%).

"A wellness-centric trip doesn't have to mean a spa or yoga retreat, although those are popular options among Thais," Ms Rajaram said. "For most of us, recharging simply means we need to disconnect and slow down. Whether it's a family vacation or a solo escape, set rules about how often you're allowed to check email and try not to overschedule your days."

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