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Phuket’s monsoon – here comes the green season

Bill Barnett

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Phuket’s monsoon – here comes the green season | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

Rainy season often brings a shroud of darkness over the island, when strong showers can even make it difficult seeing anything farther away than the short span across the road from my office. Imagine pulling a hoodie over your head on a sunny day and dropping suddenly into the netherworld of dimly lit shadows.

These green season weather changes seem to bring out the dark side of Phuket’s residents. All too often around the traps, in distant tones, or else plying the internet chatter, comes the rabid talk about the utter worthlessness of our current crop of tourists.

Just hash tag in #cheap, #stampeding groups, or #emerging markets and you’ll soon get the vibe. It’s nasty, petty and viewed through a tunnel so long and deep that there is seemingly no escape out the other end.

My mind often flashes back to the art house movie with an ethnic twinge, ‘A Day Without Mexicans’, which chronicles a mysterious happening which results in all the Latinos disappearing one day from a California town. It’s a funny, profound and a somewhat sad tale of myopia gone over the edge.

What would happen here in Phuket if suddenly all of the tourists disappeared? The strange thing after all, is that the people who do the loudest complaining or constantly voice their grumbling discontent are mostly expatriate residents. I can’t reconcile their rationale, given that these same folks must have arrived at one point as a tourist who eventually just decided to take a permanent island vacation.

Phuket's monsoon - here comes the green season | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: intoPhuket

I’m still a relative newcomer, having landed here a bit after the Millennium, but I can still recall the days before Central Festival appeared, when traversing the island was a fast and simple task. Over more than a decade, Phuket’s prosperity has seen the rapid rise of an urban resort island in the throes of what could be summed up as growing pains.

Today, the bountiful offering includes quality medical institutions, international schools that can be counted on both hands, marinas, malls, restaurants, housing estates and attractions. You can connect to flights around the world directly whether you are headed down under, to Europe, the Middle East or throughout Asia.

Where we once lived in the land of little or no choice, today the options are varied. Sure, as quantity came, one of the knock-on effects was a quality offering. You no longer have to travel to Bangkok or Singapore to shop or find those objects of desire. The world has come to Phuket.

How did this all happen? Tourism has provided jobs, income, and opportunity not only for Thais but also for a growing number of expatriates. Where better to raise a family or start a business and still be able to live in one of the finest tropical islands on earth.

And yet the voices of discontent arise. Popular themes include the nostalgic musings wondering why Phuket can’t Phuket be the way it used to be, and how come the new stream of travellers aren’t well behaved like those from a bygone era? For me, nostalgia is an old man’s game best undertaken from a bar stool.

Remembering is good, but living in the present is an even better adventure.

Bashing tourists harkens back to those who oppose immigration. What fuels these illogical thoughts are the human spirit’s dark sides of racism, intolerance and closed-mindedness. The world is a big place, with more and more people arriving every day; face it, our journey today is one without maps to a place we’ve never been before.

Yes, my patience has been tested by those who complain about traffic or crowded beaches. Do you really think Villa Market, where you happily ply around the aisles, would be here if the property market had not been spun out of the tourism sector?

To sum it up, I’m not adverse to those around me voicing their opinions or complaints, but please just keep a balanced, mindful view of how we got to where we are, and appreciate those tourists who bring their hard-earned currency to spend here in Phuket.

As to what the future may bring, Edward T McMahon voiced it very well when he said, “Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is “how?”



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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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Bangkok

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling

Bill Barnett

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Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

PHOTOS: Rosewood Bangkok

For hotel owners and managers in South East Asia, one of the great mysteries of the past ten years has been the low rate profile of Bangkok’s luxury hotel set. Despite soaring and sustained tourism growth, rising airlift and a strong economy, rates at Bangkok’s top tier properties have remained fairly stagnant.

Have we reached the tipping point?

I had had the opportunity to visit the latest entry to the Bangkok luxury class a few days ago, the Rosewood. With 159 keys which includes a limited number of posh houses with private pools and terraces the property is seeing an exceptional response and already achieving high rates.

What’s impressive about the entry is a take on the design approach that sees hotel developers apply a non-uniform approach with AvroKO coming in to focus on the restaurants and bars, while the rooms and public areas were led by Celia Chu Design and Associates.

While the speakeasy Lennon’s has not be opened yet, the 6,000 record vinyl collection is impressive and the bar will clearly have a strong pull. Taking the approach to designing restaurants and not typical hotel outlets, the Chinese eatery Nan Bei is a breath of fresh air and limited seating provides a bespoke appeal.

Taking a step back, and looking at recent entries like the Waldorf Astoria, and upcoming 101 key Capella, what is clear is luxury properties are shifting in terms of key drivers of the segment of art, fashion, residential vibe, bar and restaurant offerings, wellness and events.

So, what about rates?

On a broad basis Bangkok’s top tier hotels have averaged rates of US$200-240 for the past few years. This set has seen longer serving properties such as the St. Regis, Kempinski, and Okura effectively flatline on rates, though newer entries have come up including the Park Hyatt. On the broader horizon is the return of the Four Seasons and Capella by the river and the Orient Express at the MahaNakhon skyscraper.

With the entry of Rosewood driving rates, my expectation is that a few of the set will follow and at the end of 2019 we will set limited number of hotels crash through the US$300 average room rate barrier and effectively smash the legacy glass ceiling of Bangkok’s luxury hotels.

As in any business there will be winners and losers. Smaller hotels with some rate leading premium key types will be able to push up average daily rates. Segmentation is another key and hotels on the river that lack substantial corporate numbers will remain challenged until transport links to the area improve.

Where in the world are Bangkok luxury hotels heading?

To sum up 2019, size and location matter, the shift on food and beverage and social events along with niches like wellness and  smaller meetings/weddings are the key to the future. As for the quantum leap in rates, it’s about time Bangkok hoteliers be confident and push rates towards a more global norm.

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Thaiger

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Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | The Thaiger

The Thai cabinet yesterday approved the construction of a third runway at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as part of the country’s ambition to become the aviation hub of ASEAN.

The 21.7 billion baht project will increase the combined capacity of Suvarnabhumi international airport’s runways to 94 arrivals and departures per hour from the current 64, said Lt-Gen Weerachon Sukonthapatipak, deputy government spokesman.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (aka. BKK) was opened in 2006 as Bangkok’s second airport. Initially it replaced the tired Don Mueang Airport but Don Mueang was later revamped as a low-coast airport to service the growing traffic demands.

Meanwhile Suvarnabhumi Airport was, and still is, operating above its designed capacity. An earlier bid to build a third terminal has been mired in controversy and is currently shelved pending a new brief from Airports of Thailand with a new round of design bids called for in the future.

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018 | The Thaiger

The latest Hotel Price Index (HPI) released by Hotels.com reveals no sign of a slowdown for the global travel industry. Prices are up for overnight accommodation by 3% globally in 2018 across every regional index, except for the Pacific region, including Thailand.

Hotel.com has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.

Travellers to and around Thailand paid an average price of 1,720 baht a night for their domestic accommodation last year, a 7% drop compared to 2017, and paid the same average price of 4,437 baht a night for international accommodation in both 2018 and 2017.

The growth in travel comes despite global uncertainties including Brexit, California wildfires, South African drought and Japanese earthquakes. Travellers also showed resilience and renewed confidence in destinations touched by unrest: Paris, Egypt, Turkey; regions experiencing currency fluctuation: South America; and areas affected by natural disaster: North America.

Despite the overall growth in global accommodation prices, average prices paid for domestic accommodation in Thailand have decreased, with average prices for international beds remaining stable.

SOURCE: The Nation | Hotel.com

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