PHUKET: Twins in any language are a strange brew, whether actual biological pairs, or the symbiotic kind. Whether it is yin, or yang, or any manner of kinship, there remains an undeniable connection. As I travel often between Asia’s resort islands, I’m fortunate to have a clear perspective of what’s right and what’s wrong with Phuket.
Connecting the dots between tourism, real estate and yachting has always been an interesting task, but when you shift up to the luxury property sector the attraction clearly exists.
History is one of my favorite reference points, as indicated by demand for a certain product, brand or location. Phuket’s pairing of upscale property and yachts takes us back to the formative years of the Amanpuri Resort, where a jet-set crowd was anxious to get out of the box and snap up Adrian Zecha’s inspired tropical-modern seaside villas.
Over time the domino effect had real estate buyers wanting to either bring their own mega yachts to Phuket, or else go out and purchase a new one. Bring on Aman Cruises, where hotel management got their feet wet and understood the fundamental link between both products.
Geography is always important and Phuket’s fabulous location, with the east coast being a safe haven, has seen a steady surge in marinas over the years, including: Boat Lagoon, Yacht Haven, Royal Phuket Marina and Ao Po Grand Marina. Finding a parking spot these days for an expensive ocean-going toy is like trying to find a parking space at Central Festival on a busy weekend.
While Bali and Phuket continue to spar in the global tourism wars, Boracay keeps ranking as one of the best beaches anywhere – from Samui to China Beach, but none of these has the yachting facilities and infrastructure of Phuket. Is it just a coincidence that we also boast Asia’s largest set of multi-million-dollar vacation homes in any of these leisure markets?
In my line of work, we call the peripheral gray areas ‘demand-drivers’. For tourism, it’s a no brainer – airlift capacity is all-important. When developers I meet in other resort locations try to understand what is unique about the top end of Phuket’s property market, one key factor is always the existence of a large-scale marine sector. Chalk that one up as a no-brainer.
Sure, geography has blessed us with easy travel times to Hong Kong and Singapore, yet there are many other locations which have similar attributes that have not been able to cash in on the golden fleece. Once an industry gains momentum, the reality is that a magnetic attraction draws abundant like-minded individuals to the same parade. No-one ever said that the rich wanted to go to a party of one.
With the yachting set gearing up for a bigger and better 2016, I think it’s time the real estate players tip their hats, or at least take off their Ray Bans for a moment, and acknowledge what an important part marinas, yacht dealers and charter operators play in the economic success of our island. A hard working set of dedicated professionals have brought us world-class products, events and a wide range of services that continue to grow.
It’s often too easy to point out where Phuket gets things wrong, or gripe about an urbanizing resort trend, but the truth is that the marine trade is one of our banner industries. For the top-end sector it’s heaven-sent, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to shout about it from the rooftops. A yin without a yang, after all, isn’t the kind of twin to which you’d want to get close.
— Bill Barnett
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