PHUKET: Health and environment are two buzzwords that are being heard a lot nowadays across the globe and Phuket is no exception.
Health-conscious segments of local markets continue to grow and an increasing number of producers are looking to exploit this consumer base. What was once a niche market has turned into an ‘eco green everything’ fad.
Indeed, many consumers, producers and suppliers, will struggle to explain the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘chemical-free’, among other things.
In an exclusive interview with the Phuket Gazette, Martin H.J. Smetsers, Managing Director of Pura Organic Foods Limited, shed some light on the topic.
“The Thai government is trying to stimulate organic farming but unfortunately, clarity is still a major issue,” said Martin, whose company is a leading organic food distributor in Phuket and southern Thailand,
“The term ‘chemical-free’ cannot be compared to organic farming as chemicals are used from the time of seeding until a short period before harvest, when the use stops. The chemicals and pesticides used ‘disappear’ during this final period. However, since chemicals were used for 90 % of the growth period, such produce is subject to damage and other alterations in taste, color, shape, size and nutritional value,” he explained.
“I’ve seen a study that states that non-organic food has lost 50 per cent of its nutritional values over the last 50 years and in order to get the same nutritional value that our grandparents did 50 years ago we must eat twice as much today. With Organic produce this is less the case,” he added.
From its base in Thalang, Martin explained that Pura Organic supplies a wide array of fresh and truly organic produce to hotels, resorts and restaurants in Phuket and the southern region.
With a focus on high-quality organic produce, it distributes vegetables such as kale, green long beans, red long beans, Chinese radish, lettuce, pak choy, all kinds of lettuce, wild rocket, regular rocket and winged peas; herbs, including four different kinds of basils and coriander; and fruits such as papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, longan and mangosteen; in addition to organic dairy products such as milk (cow, buffalo and goat) and cheese, eggs and chicken.
“In total, Pura now carries over 800 organic products. One of our main local suppliers is the Thanyamundra Organic Farm in Surat Thani, next to Khao Sok National Park,” Martin said, noting that the organic farm is certified under the Agricultural Certification of Thailand (ACT) standard.
“This particular farm is on a 60 rai parcel of land located about two hours north of Phuket, and is attached to the 10-rai Thanyamundra Organic Resort which was recently chosen by Agoda as one of Asia’s Top 10 Eco-Boutiques,” he said.
“As our associate, the farm sells us their entire harvest, which we then distribute throughout the south, mostly in Phuket,” he explained.
While the company sources a lot of its fresh produce locally, its entire supply network comprises a total of 40 sources nationwide including those in Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Mae Hong Son provinces, Mr Smetsers added.
“Pura has had some problems due to a logistic issue caused by the recent flooding, but since our main product lines are fresh produce, most of this is flown directly into Phuket from all over Thailand,” he said.
Martin went on to explain that while official certification and reputation is important, it cannot be relied on unconditionally.
“We initially believe and trust our organic sources, but try to make it a point to personally visit their production and distribution facilities to see if they meet Pura’s quality requirements,” he said.
“Over the past 14 months, we have taken some products with certified organic sources off our list simply because after visiting the farm we didn’t feel comfortable with the quality and standard observed,” he added.
“On the other hand we feel very proud to carry products from non- certified sources who have shown us comfortable levels of organic correctness. Pura Organic Foods Ltd is very willing to help the small farmer who makes an effort to be organic and whose efforts are often pressured by unfair trade practices,” he added.
Martin himself has been eating organic food for over 20 years and said he has not had to take a single day off for sick leave.
Pura Organic will soon open its new shop and office, for more information , see W: puraorganic.org
Phuket hotel watch – 3 months down, 9 to go in 2019
by Bill Barnett of C9Hotelworks.com
At the beginning of the year Phuket’s tourism and hotel sector was cautiously optimistic after a strong first half of 2018 and humbling second half. Key terms that kept popping up were Mainland Chinese, Thai Baht Appreciation, Elections and Supply Concerns.
So today, with three months of performance under the belt in 2019 what are the key trends in hotel trading? These can best be compressed in the following points –
According to data from hotel benchmarking group STR, Thailand remains Southeast Asia’s leading destination for Mainland Chinese, but the gloss is being diminished by Vietnam’s meteoric rise, and strong numbers by the Philippines and Cambodia.
Market-wide RevPar shunk by 0.04% in 2018 and flat demand at the onset of the year is now shifting into negative territory moving into February and beyond. Turning back to last year, group demand is falling which is as key concern in a wholesale driven marketplace.
One stark positive is that RevPar is being propped up by rates and not occupancy. A key takeaway is that in peak and high season, Phuket hotels are able to drive rates up in key periods and continue to do so. This of course is a broad trend. Good hotels tend to perform at higher levels, while poorly managed ones remain subpar.
Getting beyond the numbers, as I speak to hoteliers the expectation is that wholesalers remain a critical component of the island’s hotel industry and despite the expected shift with technology to more direct bookings, the reality is that wholesale models are sensitive to demand volatility and the result of this feeding frenzy most often will be either flat rates for the year or in some cases a retraction.
We expect the remainder of 2019 to be challenging. Some hotels will look at this as an opportunity to reposition, renovate or cut costs. While others will look at new segments, niche offerings or emerging markets like India to regain momentum.
As for the top critical issues facing Phuket hotels, in my opinion these can be distilled in the following Top 3 Things Keep Me Awake at Night…
• Mainland Chinese – If tourism players or hotels believe the damage to Brand Phuket is over, think again. Talking to key tour operators there remains a hangover from last year’s boat sinking incident and travellers remain keenly concerned over safety. Only time and more concentrated promotion will see a return of the numbers.
• Growing Supply and Demand Imbalance – The current pipeline is just over 8,000 keys in development on the island. What’s more concerning is that projects in planning are not represented in this metric, and by our estimate there are approximately 5,000 more keys in planning. While both the pipeline and planning numbers will see some wash, the sum total exceeds current and forecasted demand.
Moreso, the rise of unlicensed condominiums, apartments, houses and villas is continuing unabated and is further exacerbating supply issues. Every time you see a group of tourists renting a 3 or 4 bedroom villa, that’s three or four hotel rooms that lay empty. Government control of unlicensed properties is a key issue facing Phuket’s tourism industry.
• Diminished Natural Resources and Strained Infrastructure – Water tops the list and there is little doubt we are reaching the tipping point with mounting shortages and soaring demand. Electricity is another concern. Lastly is a rising number of vehicles on the road, a urbanising trajectory and slow development of roads and public transport.
To these point’s lets revisit the hotel development pipeline and reflect that a island long term master plan, zoning for new tourism expansion and requirements for developers to invest in public infrastructure to obtain operating licenses is sorely lacking. Something has to give on this front.
In conclusion am I pessimistic about Phuket’s tourism and hotel future in 2019 and beyond? Absolutely not, direct airlinks are growing and the island has a well-structured capacity for handling tourism, but I firmly believe looking into our problems, discussing and finding ways to resolve these are critical to a sustainable growth pattern.
‘Seastead’ set up off coast of Phuket
PHOTOS: Nation TV
A Thai couple has successfully set up a ‘Seastead’ near Phuket.
Seasteading is aiming to build floating societies with “significant political autonomy”. Nearly half the world’s surface is unclaimed by any nation-state, and many coastal nations can legislate “seasteads” in their territorial waters (like a “homestead” but wetter).
The nation TV reports that website ‘Bitcoin.com’ and ‘Ocean.builders’ report that the Thai couple Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Summergirl are are the first seasteaders who established a small seastead 12 nautical miles off Phuket.
Most of the construction of the Seasteading was built on the island of Phuket. The installation in the sea started on January 9.
Mr Elwartowski reveals that the reason that they have chosen to settle near Phuket as the construction price is cheap. The sea is suitable for the establishment as waves are not too high and can attract many tourists.
SOURCE: Nation TV
Massive 11 hotel project, surf club and waterpark for Kata, Phuket
by Bill Barnett, C9Hotelworks.com
Thai developer K.W. Plaza group has unveiled plans for a large-scale mixed-use project called The Beach Plaza on 15 rai, that will have 11 three and four star hotels with a total of 1.490 rooms. The developer is already pitching the unconstructed project to global hotel interests for an imminent sale.
The properties will have varying room sizes from 25 to 35 square metres and range in size from 78 to 204 rooms. Part of the development scheme will see the hotels individually sold off to hotel investors and/or operators.
Late last year the group built and sold the Surf Resort in Patong which was brokered by JLL to a Singapore-based owner/operator.
Other components of the project include a surf club, waterpark, and freestanding restaurants and retail.
An initial hotel has already obtained EIA approval and is currently for sale, with construction of other properties to be phased. The Beach Plaza is off-beach, behind the Kata Night Market and close to Club Med, Ozo and the Ibis.
For more details on the project click HERE.
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