Biz leaders make French connection

PHUKET: Phuket’s tourism industry leaders are banking on boosting the number of foreign visitors to the province by about 20 per cent during the year-end high season by attracting more French tourists.

Local hoteliers, tour operators and agencies are hopeful of a new influx of French nationals after a string of successful roadshows in Nice, Lyon and Paris, from September 26-30, to promote tourism in the province. The trip, billed as a ‘fact-finding tour’, was jointly organized by the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) and the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) with the aim of targeting a broad spectrum of potential visitors for the upcoming new year – from young travellers to ‘quality tourists’ seeking secluded and luxurious holiday accommodation.

“We joined the event in September on the advice of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Many French people travel to warmer places during their winter,” said PTA President Sathirapong Na Takuatoong.

“We received a lot of positive feedback from tourism representatives in the three cities we visited. Each year, Phuket gets about 300,000 visitors from Paris; 80,000 from Lyon and 60,000 from Nice,” Mr Sathirapong said, adding that most other segments of Phuket’s tourism market were doing well, except for the Chinese market which had been slightly impacted by negative news about zero-dollar tours in Phuket by China-based tour operators.

TAT Paris Director Areerat Chunprapanusorn said Phuket received a lot of attention at the expo compared to an Indonesian tourism roadshow being held in the French capital at the same time.

“We had significant interest from prominent businesses at the Paris roadshow – proof that Phuket offers outstanding potential compared to neighboring competitors,” said Ms Areerat, adding that more flights with special deals between Phuket and the three French cities were helping to attract more international visitors.

Phuket Tourist Association Vice President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam said the France visit was also an opportunity to build business relations and spread news about the new international terminal at Phuket Airport; Phuket’s status as a ‘City of Gastronomy’ (story here), and also Phuket’s drive to become a smart city (story here).

TAT Marketing executive Prakit Saiporn said thousands more French tourists were choosing Phuket as a holiday destination, with Thailand welcoming about eight per cent more such visitors this year than last year.

“Tourist trends are changing. We used to get mostly middle-aged tourists visiting northern Thailand for its cultural attractions, but now we are seeing more young French tourists coming to Phuket for the beach life,” said Mr Prakit.

OrBorJor council member Somkid Supap said seeing how things were being done in the French tourist cities was good for gathering concepts that could be applied to Phuket.

Next, the PTA is off to the ITB Asia travel and trade expo from October 19-21 in Singapore, and then the ITB Berlin, Germany, March 9-12 next year. Meanwhile the PTA also plans to push for more Chinese tourists with a trip to that country in February, and more travellers from the UAE by travelling there, too, in April.

— Chutharat Plerin

Business News

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