PERFORMANCE AND INTELLIGENCE
Resilient Phuket lays sound
foundations for strategic growth
Many hail 2004 as
visitors and was
clearly on a roll
before the year-end
lives and the island's
The resilience of
bodies, fuelled by
arrivals over the past
24 months, has
allowed the island to
recover and gather
momentum toward a
International Airport's (PIA) first quarter arrivals in
2007 came in 10% higher than 2006, and by May
this year, the number had reached 2.
International airlines are scrambling to
gain more slots into PIA, and heavy load factors
on these new flights – along with increased
frequencies from domestic low-cost carriers –
see PIA as a key gateway to the Andaman area.
Increased capacity into PIA would
continue to feed global demand for this region
"This year we should hit at least 4.
visitors, the record number posted in 2004," said
TAT southern region IV director Suwalai
More flights and a surge in cruise tourism
is being credited as the driving force behind the
Southeast Asia remains the key source
market, but the Thai Hotels Association (THA)
southern region cautions that arrivals have yet
to reach pre-tsunami levels.
The THA cites the non-return of direct
flights from Japan and the southern unrest as
factors inhibiting greater expansion.
and Taiwanese numbers are also weak.
other hand, Ms Suwalai noted that TUI Nordic
contributed 75,000 Scandinavian arrivals last
year, and expects 100,000 in 2007.
"This year we should
hit at least 4.7 million
visitors, (matching) the
record number posted
in 2004." Tourism
Authority of Thailand
southern region IV
Chiang Mai turns to business events
Chiang Mai has long been the poor cousin of the
booming tourism centres of Phuket and Pattaya,
but it is increasingly emerging as a force to be
reckoned with as it positions itself as a centre for
Blessed with the unique Lanna cultural
heritage, renowned service standards and natural
mountainous surroundings, it is harnessing these
qualities with a host of new five-star hotels that will
go a long way to providing the hardware that has
been lacking to date.
The 391-room Le Meridien Chiang Mai,
featuring a 1,614-sqm ballroom, and the 281-room
Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai, with a 1,400-sqm
ballroom, will both open next year.
Progress has not been without its
disappointments with the on again, off again
funding tap for the Chiang Mai International
Exhibition and Convention Center's construction.
There has been, however, an overall
positive momentum since 2006, which delivered
blockbuster results after years of lacklustre growth.
Much can be credited to the Royal Flora
Ratchaphruek, an event that not only provided a
welcome shot in the arm but also really started to
put the destination on the map and in the minds of
tourism and events planners.
According to the Tourism Authority of
Thailand (TAT), Chiang Mai arrival figures soared
37.5% from under 4 million in 2005 to 5.5 million
last year. Chiang Rai jumped 16% from 1.15
million to 1.33 million and Mae Hong Son moved
ahead 11.6% to 367,869.
To continue the momentum into this year's
high season, the TAT has shifted some of its focus
to smaller trade and consumer events such as
September's Amazing North Fair, which promoted
new destinations, attractions and activities under
GULF OF THAILAND
Destinations need to overcome
air access restrictions
Koh Samui has enjoyed tremendous growth over
the past decade, as it has emerged from being a
backpacker destination into one of the most soughtafter
boutique tourism experiences in the region.
In 2004 the island experienced over 10%
growth on the previous year, only to dip slightly to
8% in 2005 before alarm bells started ringing in
2006 when arrivals grew only 1.5%.
destination seems to have reached a crossroads,
with air access as the principal reason for
inhibiting further growth.
Aviation Department director general
Chaisak Angsuwan said the Bangkok Airwaysowned
Samui Airport can accommodate more
flights and Airbus A319 traffic, but the airfield is
restricted to 34 flights a day.
depends on the outcome of an environmental
Until the results are in, Bangkok
Airways is looking to increase capacity by switching to
its new 144-seat A319s.
Thai Airways International, Thai AirAsia and
One-Two-Go have turned to the mainland Surat
Thani Airport and formed alliances with ferry
operators to shuttle passengers to Samui.
also wants to launch flights to Surat Thani, but the
airport is on a secondary route, limited to 300,000
passengers a year.
Mr Chaisak said the new
government will probably give Nok Air the go
ahead in 2008.
Air access is also an issue for Hua Hin, as
only fledgling niche carrier Siam General Aviation
offers three daily shuttle flights from Bangkok on
board its 12-seat Cessna Grand Caravan.
And while the average annual growth in Hua
Hin arrivals since 1997 has been 6.5%, last year the level stagnated at 1.8% at 2.32 million visitors,
of which 455,444 were foreigners.
Suvarnabhumi Airport boosts
Pattaya posted 6.
1 million arrivals last year, up from
3 million in 2005 according to the Tourism
Authority of Thailand, and the opening of
Suvarnabhumi Airport – a 90-minute drive away – is
expected to propel this figure closer to 8 million this
year as tourists bypass Bangkok for the resort town.
The city continues to forge its position as a
popular destination, with the private and public
sectors combining to fine tune its image.
There is no doubt Pattaya enjoys a colourful
reputation, but there is massive investment coming
into the destination from major international hotel
companies and property developers that should
secure its future.
Starwood's Sheraton brand has opened
there already with a Le Meridien to come.
Holiday Inn and InterContinental brands will be
there by the end of next year, while home-grown
brands Amari and Centara are expanding their
room portfolios significantly.
But it is not only hotels that are bringing
prosperity to the city.
International property developers have been
constructing ultra-modern condominium projects
on prime locations in the city, further enhancing its
tourism appeal as this sector allows for long-stay
holidays in the region.
One such developer is Raimon Land who has
the Northpoint development on Wong Amat Beach.
Raimon Land chief executive officer, Nigel
Cornick, said he expected more development in
Pattaya to drive its image away from the traditional
nightlife and questionable goods sold at street
"Of the total number of visitors to Pattaya,
around 30% are 'premium' tourists staying in fourand
five-star hotels," he said.
Numerous new destinations point
to healthy tourism future
Thailand's potential as a world-leading tourism
centre appears increasingly assured as it ramps
up its destination offerings by adding numerous
locations to the tried and tested roster of Bangkok,
Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.
The cultural and geographic variety of
Thailand is an advantage that the private and
public sectors are beginning to leverage for the
benefit of Thailand's tourism industry.
"Thailand should be able to market more
than 10, and perhaps 20, destinations," said Thai
Airways International director – Thailand,
Indochina and Myanmar, Pichai Chunganuwad.
In the Andaman Sea, Lanta Island is enticing
high-end guests, and the launch of Destination Air
Shuttle, Thailand's only seaplane service, can
directly deliver them after a 30-minute flight from
their base near Phuket International Airport.
Another new hotspot is Racha Island off the
southern tip of Phuket, with The Racha's 70
"green" villas and accommodation in a converted
Closer to Bangkok sits the burgeoning
Chang Island with ecotourism activities, including
sky trekking, and a variety of top-end resorts.
In the north, Siam General Aviation kicked off
its daily Chiang Mai-Pai service on 1 February
using a 12-seat Cessna Caravan.
flight bypasses the long drive on tight, twisting
roads to the off-the-beaten-track destination.
Pai is a small, picturesque town in the
forested highlands, and offers quiet nature retreats
and a base for trekking.