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Phuket: More tourists, fewer baht

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PHUKET: With hotel occupancy rates on the island currently reported at around 90 percent, hoteliers and other tourism business operators find themselves for the first time in two years unable to complain about a lack of tourists.

This is obviously good news, but businesses on the island are finding that strong arrival figures haven’t translated into the kind of revenue enjoyed during past high seasons. Many report income down by 30 to 40 percent compared to the 2007-2008 season.

Although this is an improvement over the 2008-2009 high season, which was wiped out by the takeover of Bangkok’s two airports, business operators are complaining that the hoped-for bumper profits needed to get them though the next low season simply aren’t there.

There are several reasons for this spending drop, the most important of which is the state of the global economy. The downturn has left European tourists, traditionally Phuket’s bread-and-butter market, forced to cut back on expenditure while on vacation.

The demographics of inbound tourism to Phuket are changing as well. With the expansion in the number of direct scheduled and direct charter flights to the island from many new destinations in the region, Asian tourists now make up half of all foreign visitors.

In response to these trends, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says it is trying to get tourists to part with more cash during their stays here.

Although it claims the new focus will be on expenditure and not arrival figures, the Tourism and Sports Ministry has nevertheless set a nationwide goal of attracting 16 million tourists in 2010, up two million from last year.

The TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing, Juthaporn Rerngronasa, recently said the agency will take a market-by-market approach, targeting Europeans with ‘green tourism’ attractions, enticing Middle Easterners with health and wellness services, and luring back Japanese tourists by naming a ‘golf ambassador’, for example.

No TAT campaign would be complete without a slogan, and this time the agency is indeed playing to the country’s strengths with its new ‘Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value’ catchphrase.

Phuket should stand to benefit from this latest TAT campaign. After all, there is no shortage of places for people to spend money on the island: golf courses, spas, specialty clinics, shopping centers, eco-tourism destinations, and more bars and nightclubs per capita than any other province in the country.

Unfortunately, such value-for-money attractions continue to suffer at the hands of the island’s patchwork of transport syndicates, which make it prohibitively expensive for many tourists to reach them.

— Stephen Fein

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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