PHUKET CITY: Around two million tourists visited Phuket between January and June this year – an increase of more than 10% on the same period in 2003 – according to the Director of the Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Suwalai Pinpradab.
This year’s visitors brought around 38 billion baht into Phuket, around 4 billion more than during the same period last year, though the average amount of time they stayed here fell slightly.
“The average period of stay decreased from 4.97 days to 4.52 days,” said K. Suwalai. “It’s because during the ‘green’ season, we welcomed many Asian tourists, and they tend to stay here a shorter time than European visitors because they consider Thailand as their neighbor.”
Around 10% of the visitors were from Germany, the biggest single national group. The market which experienced the fastest growth was Hong Kong; in January-June 2003, 25,594 visitors to Phuket came from Hong Kong, but in the same period this year, the figure was 103,864, an increase of more than 300%.
This high season, Phuket International Airport expects to handle 381 flights a week, of which 200 will be domestic flights. K. Suwalai said the number of flights from European countries is increasing all the time.
Hotel and guesthouse occupancy is currently close to 100%, though there are still enough rooms to accommodate new arrivals, said K. Suwalai.
She acknowledged that as Phuket “no longer has a low season”, meaning natural resources have less time to recover from an influx of visitors.
But, she said, “Tourists come all year round, but we still get fewer tourists in the green season, which is when nature, especially around the Similans and Surin Island, rehabilitates itself.”
The situation is different in Phang Nga, which has a steady number of tourists all year round, said K. Suwalai. She said Phuket TAT, Phang Nga TAT and the Marine National Parks Department have been trying to find ways to limit the number of boat passenger and to turn the area into a destination that will attract smaller numbers of tourists overall by concentrating on attracting higher-spending visitors.
She added, “[Deputy Prime Minister] Suwat Liptapanlop told us when he was last in Phuket that the government must take care of the environment in the Andaman Cluster [which includes Phuket and Phang Nga]. He pointed out that if the products are not good, we can’t expect to sell them.”
K. Suwalai said about 5,000 visitors – mostly from Hong Kong and Singapore – had come to Phuket on incentive packages of the sort Phuket was trying to promote under its MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) initiative.
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