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A tale of two cities, Phuket style

Bill Barnett

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A tale of two cities, Phuket style | The Thaiger

By Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

The raindrops keep falling on my head. Rainy season always brings with it time to dust off the classics, and strangely enough, straight off my top shelf came Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Life is played out so well in these tattered pages, which are turned a mottled brown on the edges. There is darkness and light, social injustice and a subtle sense of things comedic bubbling along just under the surface.

Here in Phuket, we have our very own tale of two cities. Well more correctly – one city and one town, but let’s not split hairs, Patong is surely headed straight to City-dom, while we all keep referring to Phuket City as Phuket Town. (Please note: the upgrade into the former came in 2004, but old habits die hard.)

Geography has an interesting effect on the way things shift to and fro on the island, in a manner not unlike urban sprawl. Bangkok, for example, has seen a massive shift in its central business district and tourism areas over the last 20 years. Perhaps the biggest game-changer was the BTS Skytrain which derailed both the Chao Phraya River and Silom districts and catapulted Sukhumvit to the nation’s front page.

A tale of two cities, Phuket style | News by The Thaiger

Suddenly, fading superstar hotels were left behind by the high yielding business travellers and many businesses relocated. Next to the river, things have never quite been the same as they were in days past. Will the shiny new commercial areas of Rajdamri suffer the same fate in another twenty years? It’s hard to say, but where else in the world can you stroll past a St. Regis, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, and soon, a Waldorf Astoria in the span of a few football fields?

What defines much of today’s development of rural areas to urbanized centers is transportation. We all know this island lacks mass transport and for the foreseeable future the key spine road that goes from the Sarasin Bridge all the way to Rawai is the main artery of Phuket. There is simply no avoiding the fact. There are no logical alternatives on the west or east coast so this road straight down the middle will divide and conquer the growing metropolis.

Tourism continues to define the local economy and over the past two decades we’ve seen shifts from the south to the north, east and west. Find the big blocks of land and that is where the resorts will grow. Phang Nga’s illogical zoning out of hotels and large scale residential areas from Thai Muang back to the other side of the Sarasin Bridge has simply put more pressure on available land here on the island.

While Phuket City remains the seat of Government, a defined movement was afoot as early as the new Millennium (that’s 2000 for those who don’t know what the Big M is). First came the hypermarts – Tesco Lotus, Big C and Makro. Then rolled in Central Festival, and the island suddenly stepped up its urban game. The City, or at that time the Town, was on a fast move west, banking up on the main artery of the By-Pass Road and then spilling over into Kathu. Progress was marked by curb appeal and road frontage.

Meanwhile post-tsunami Patong has been ramping up as well, building up an inventory of well over 30% of the island’s hotel rooms, and, within the last few years, setting the benchmark for unseasonal year round high occupancy. Retail here again helps shift things back off the main beach area and Jungceylon has somehow become the epicentre of a new highly urbanised resort destination.

A tale of two cities, Phuket style | News by The Thaiger

As a consultant, I am heavily involved in the planning of new hotels, tourism attractions and residential projects both here and abroad. Often times I’m asked what is the forward looking view of Phuket. In my own opinion, the shifting sands of development will see the collision of Phuket City and Patong over the next decade. Logically the Kathu area will be the biggest beneficiary of this evolution as the two ‘cities’ continue to spill into the middle of the island.

We already see large Board of Investment (BoI) tourism attractions coming into the area and another Bangkok-based retail giant has started construction of a second mega-mall near the Samkong Underpass. Central Festival’s expansion will open in the second half of this year. Even the Chalong Circle underpass will eventually be finished and, in the same way the other three underpasses have assisted traffic flow in the middle of the island, the same will happen in the south.

Will the two tribes merge into one larger highly urbanised business, tourism and commercial district, or will they create a new more centralised version? It’s hard to say, but most likely it will be a combination of both. Phuket’s story is continuing to be written but if you want to gaze into a crystal ball, it’s best to follow the transport infrastructure to spot where the action is. Just watch the real estate boom around each of the stop-offs for the new Phuket Light Rail when it eventually kicks off.

 


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Bill Barnett has over 30 years of experience in the Asian hospitality and property markets. He is considered to be a leading authority on real estate trends across Asia, and has sat at almost every seat around the hospitality and real estate table. Bill promotes industry insight through regular conference speaking engagements and is continually gathering market intelligence. Over the past few years he has released four books on Asian property topics.

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Thailand

Somkid says he’ll fly to Beijing to discuss luring back Chinese visitors

The Thaiger

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Somkid says he’ll fly to Beijing to discuss luring back Chinese visitors | The Thaiger

The fallout from a number of tragedies and bad PR has mobilised the Thai government to take firm steps towards luring back the Chinese travellers who have been looking elsewhere, other than Thailand, for their chosen holiday breaks.

The Nation is reporting that Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak has said today that he may have to hold talks with the Chinese government in Beijing to explore ways to boost the number of Chinese tourists back to the kingdom.

He says the number of Chinese tourists in September plunged by 14.80 per cent compared to the same month last year and the Thai government must find ways to improve the number of visitors.

In Chiang Mai, a crisis meeting for tour operators was held on tuesday night where hotel owners and tour group operators learned that Chinese tourism was down 50% in the first nine months of 2018, compared to last year.

Some measures were put forward at the Chiang Mai meeting to woo them back, including setting up Chinese language classes to improve communication with the tourists from China.

Deputy PM Somkid says Chinese tourists are a major group of foreign tourists for Thailand and he has instructed the Tourism Authority of Thailand to work with the Thai Airways International to come up with promotional packages for Chinese tourists for the final two months this year (reading between the lines there could be some cheap tickets coming up for flights to Chinese destination in November and December).

Somkid said THAI has also been instructed to hold talks with China Southern Airlines on cooperation of flights to attract more Chinese tourists. The deputy prime minister added that he has also instructed the Foreign Ministry to consider granting Chinese tourists visas on arrival, lessening the paperwork and costs for travellers from China.

Somkid says he'll fly to Beijing to discuss luring back Chinese visitors | News by The Thaiger

Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak – PHOTO: The Nation

SOURCES: The Nation, The Thaiger

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Phuket

Woman stages an accident and lies to police about gold theft

The Thaiger

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Woman stages an accident and lies to police about gold theft | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Newshawk Phuket

A woman has confessed to lying to police about two thieves that snatched her gold necklace and bracelet on Sakdidet Road in Wichit.

On Tuesday, ‘Newshawk Phuket’ reported that two thieves snatched the gold necklace and bracelet weighing around 30g of gold, worth 40,000 baht, on Sakdidet Road in Wichit.

Patrol police arrived at the scene to assist the woman and investigate her claims.

Yesterday, Phuket City Police say that the woman, 25 year old Rattana Kraiwan from Songkhla, had been taken to the Phuket City Police Station for questioning.

Rattana hadn’t filed an official report to police and she eventually admitted to police that she made the story up.

Police say she’s admitted to staging the fall off her motorbike into a ditch nearby and pawning off the two gold items, which belonged to her husband, to pay for her personal debts. She said she was afraid that her husband would be angry so she made the story up.

Rattana has promised to police that she will not do things like this again. It is unclear if police pressed any charges or just closed the case with a warning.

Woman stages an accident and lies to police about gold theft | News by The Thaiger Woman stages an accident and lies to police about gold theft | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

No more coups, unless we need one – Commander in Chief

The Thaiger

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No more coups, unless we need one – Commander in Chief | The Thaiger

With the country heading for elections in February, or sometime soon in 2019, the hope is for a new, democratically elected government following four and a half years of military rule. But would the army rule out another coup?

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has refused to rule out the possibility of another coup if the country is plunged into chaos again.

Speaking to Thai PBS, Gen Apirat said… “My hope is that politics will not bring the country into conflicts again. If politics doesn’t cause chaos, then nothing will happen.”

Military coups have gone hand-in-hand with the rough and tumble of Thai politics for almost 80 years since the country stumbled into democratic parliamentary rule in 1932 in a bloodless coup.

Speaking to the media for the first time since taking office, Gen Apirat says that, while Thailand had had more than 10 military coups, the last few ones were triggered by politics.

“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was then army chief in 2014,  had no choice but to intervene. Just imagine what would have happened, had Gen Prayut did not do what he did.”

Gen Apirat also voiced full support of the army for the National Council for Peace and Order.

“The army and NCPO are one and the same.”

But the General stressed the army is ready to lend support to any government that comes to power.  By his position, Gen Apirat also currently serves as the secretary of NCPO.

The new army chief said he is hopeful that the country will not have to endure more any violent political conflicts.

“We have seen what conflicts have done to the country. Let them serve as a reminder ,” he said.

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