by Tim Newton
The population of Thailand is around 70 million people. I think most of them were at the opening night of the new Central Floresta on September 10.
As far as openings go this must have put a smile on the Central owners and management involved in bringing this new shopping experience to fruition – it was a triumph in every respect.
If you were driving past over the weekend you must have thought, as I did, that there was no way the new shining light of the Central Pattana Group was possibly going to be ready. Little did we know that the hard work was all happening behind the facade and once the scaffolding came down on Sunday, voila, there it was.
Phuket now has a (sorry, I’m going to use the hackneyed phrase) world class shopping precinct in the heart of the island. A ‘central’ retail district to rival anything else in Thailand, outside Bangkok. Surely the intersection will now continue to attract more investment and the area will evolve into the island’s premier shopping zone – clearly this is the plan and what Central Pattana are hoping for.
Everything about the new Central Floresta is well above predictions – from the parking (there’s plenty), the range of stores, the excellent food court, the imaginative design, the decor, lighting – it’s all outstanding. Particularly pleasing is the integration, just about everywhere you look, of ‘Thainess’ but with a Phuket flavour. The Peranakan architectural motifs adorn the food court, the lofty statues and sculptures are highly imaginative and add spectacle to the open spaces.
Whilst some of the better-known luxury brands are missing at the moment there are still plenty of high-end luxury brands and a few new ones as well.
I am sure we will be calling the two sides of the road ‘the old Central’ and ‘the new Central’ in the short-term, but can imagine there will be a time when the two will morph into one precinct we’ll simply call ‘Central’.
Phuket went a few notches up the retail ladder yesterday when the new store opened its doors. Apart from Thailand’s best beaches, the island can now boast an international shopping precinct as a key attraction – it was lacking in the past with Patong’s Jungceylon looking tired and Central Festival in need of a modern interpretation. The retail scene is changing a lot faster than developers seem to be able to cope with.
For the ‘locals’ who yearn for the Phuket of old – the little Thai tropical paradise with the cheap bars and tacky beach restaurants – it’s long gone and it’s not coming back. Thailand’s largest companies and biggest investors are spending big and the biggest international brands keep coming, investing in new projects, raising the stakes and the quality of the island’s offerings.
In the next few years we have the opening of one of the most spectacular water theme parks in Asia opening up (Blue Tree in Cherng Talay), a classy new Mandarin Hotel at Laem Singh on the west coast, the opening of the MontAzure properties at Kamala and a list of other new developments currently pending announcement – all taking Phuket up a notch.
The new food hall on the lower floor is immense with something for every budget and taste. And a floating market!
Phuket will never be the same; it’s growing and evolving into an urban island for tourists – the ‘Hawaii of South East Asia’ (as I heard someone describe it last night – thanks Harry). If you really want to live the 1990’s Phuket you can still find a similar lifestyle north of the island, down around Trang, parts of Krabi or even up around the northern parts of Phuket. But the island is now on a one-way trajectory to become Thailand’s most recognised international brand.
So congratulations Central Pattana for having the vision and coming up with something we can all enjoy and that tourists will appreciate. Floresta is a welcome addition and will surely encourage other shopping zones on the island to invest and catch up, otherwise be left behind.
But wait, there’s more coming. The new shopping precinct has three themed attractions to open yet and an enormous Aquarium as well.
Check out Floresta but leave yourself a morning or afternoon – there’s plenty to absorb.
We were at the opening yesterday when the shutters went up…
Strong growth from key markets compensate for slight dip in Chinese tourists
by Thanchanok Phobut | Senior Coordinator, Thailand
CBRE, international property consultants, believe that the Thai tourism market is still as resilient as ever.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports announced they are expecting more than 40 million tourists to visit Thailand this year, up from the record-breaking 38.3 million last year. According to the latest figures, the first two months of 2019 showed a 2.5% year-on-year growth in international tourist arrivals at 7.3 million, compared to 7.1 million the previous year.
In the first two months of 2019, the total number of Chinese tourist arrivals decreased slightly by 2.2% – 2.17 million in 2018 to 2.12 million this year. Chinese tourist arrivals in February, the month in which the Chinese New Year was celebrated this year, decreased by 12.3% year-on-year.
Other key feeder markets like Malaysia, India, Korea, and Japan showed double-digit growth in the first two months of 2019, with India having the highest growth at 20.1% year-on-year. Even though the combined number of tourists from these four feeder markets was smaller than that of the Chinese market alone, this positive trend could replace any loss of Chinese tourists. The challenge remains for Thailand to win back this biggest feeder market now that the most significant holiday for Chinese people has passed.
Bangkok still attracts tourists from around the world. The number of international tourist arrivals to Bangkok in the first two months of 2019 was 4.68 million, a 3% year-on-year growth. The development of a third runway in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, approved by the government on April 17, will strengthen Bangkok’s capacity to handle larger numbers of tourists in the future.
“In the first quarter of 2019, Rosewood Bangkok, a 159 key luxury hotel next to Phloen Chit BTS station, opened its doors to the public. This was one of Bangkok’s most highly-anticipated luxury hotel openings together with Capella Bangkok and Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River, both of which will open later this year, underpinning renewed interest in the riverside area and capitalising on recent developments outside of the hotel sector,” comments Mr. Atakawee Choosang, Head of Capital Markets – CBRE Hotels in Thailand.
CBRE believes that Bangkok will continue to be one of the top tourist destinations in the world with new luxury hotel openings, improving infrastructure, and attractions that appeal to a wide range of tourists.
World Bank downgrades Thailand’s 2019 GDP growth to 3.8%
The World Bank is downgrading Thailand’s growth projections to 3.8% from 3.9% for 2019. This compares to last year’s 4.1% GDP. The Bank says that export growth has shrunk to 5.7% from last year’s 5.9%.
The World Bank’s senior economist for Thailand, Mr. Kiatpong Ariyapratya, says that the Word Bank also projects that Thailand’s growth rate for next year would remain at 3.8%. He was citing the East Asia and Pacific Update report,
“Thailand’s export growth projection for this year was adjusted down because of a global economic slowdown as a result of the simmering trade war between the US and China. Growth in tourist arrivals to Thailand this year is also projected to drop slightly.”
Thai PBS reports that, although Thailand’s growth projection is lower than the average 4%-5% rate for the rest of ASEAN, Mr. Kiatpong said that Thailand’s economic growth trend was improving compared to the situation 2-3 years ago, especially investment in the government and private sectors and the private sector’s consumption is picking up, constituting the main engines of economic expansion, expected to grow 4.6% and 4.3% respectively.
He warned that investments by the government sector for the year 2021, as well as government procurement projects and private sector investments, might be affected if formation of the new government is further delayed.
Transport Ministry and State Railways told to pay HK company 11.9 billion baht
The long running issue of Bangkok’s ‘stonehenge’ has been resolved after the Supreme Administrative Court handed down its findings today over the disputed contract of the 60 kilometre link from central Bangkok to Don Mueang Airport.
The Thai Ministry of Transport and the State Railway of Thailand have been dealt a costly blow after the Supreme Administrative Court today overturned the Administrative Court’s verdict and ordered the two state agencies pay almost 11.9 billion baht in compensation to the Hong Kong-based Hopewell Holdings Company for the termination of the Hopewell project – a 60 kilometre elevated highway and rail line from central Bangkok to Don Meuang international airport back in the 90s.
Thai PBS reports that the compensation, plus another 500 million baht in bank guarantees put up by Hopewell Holdings Company, must be paid within 180 days of the verdict from the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Thai court’s verdict will put an end to the long-running legal battle, between the Transport Ministry and the SRT on one side and HK’s Hopewell Holdings on the other.
Hopewell Holding was granted the 30 year concession in 1990 to manage the project, given the nickname of the Thai “Stonehenge”. The project was riddled with difficulties and widely criticised, resulting in construction being suspended in 1992 and the eventual termination of the contract in 1998, with less than 20% of the work completed.
The dispute over compensation went through an arbitration process under the auspices of the Thai Arbitration Institute which in 2008 ruled in favour of Hopewell Holdings, with both the Transport Ministry and the SRT ordered to pay Hopewell about 12 billion baht in compensation for wrongful termination of the concession.
The two state agencies challenged the arbitration tribunal’s ruling by taking the case to the Administrative Court which in October 2014 overturned the tribunal’s ruling on the grounds that Hopewell’s claim was barred by a time limitation.
Hopewell Holdings then successfully appealed the ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court.
SOURCE: The PBS
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