PHUKET: The island’s hotels are enjoying a surge in occupancy rates with many ethnic Chinese flying in from around the region to celebrate the advent of the Year of the Goat on February 1. Phuket Town hotels are nearly full, both with Asian and Western visitors, said Napasorn Kakai, Deputy Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Region 4 office. She added that bookings at seaside resorts for the first half of February were about 90%, better than for the same period last year – despite fears of a war in Iraq. She attributed the strong figures to an increase in the number of direct flights from Beijing to Phuket, as well as a large number of charter flight arrivals from Russia and Scandinavian countries. But not all have benefitted from the increase. Hattaya Weerakul, operator of the Nopakhaw gold shop in Phuket Town said, “Chinese tourists traditionally buy gold at this time of year as a gift for family members. But this year gold prices are high. “Gold jewelry is 7,600 baht/bahtweight. In previous years, prices ranged from 6,000 to 7,000 baht. Many have decided this is too much and have given their New Year gifts in cash instead, which has hurt our business.” Rungrudee Chairattananukul, a food vendor at Ranong Market, said, “Business has been slow during this year’s Chinese New Year period, even though food prices are the same as last year. “Most people are coming only to buy small amounts to use as sacrificial offerings to their departed ancestors and Chinese celestial spirits.” For a list of Chinese New Year events on the island, see the link: https://thethaiger.com/bulletins/index.asp
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