C9: Samui vies for year-round bookings

C9: Samui vies for year-round bookings

A ferry takes passengers from Donsak pier in Surat Thani to Koh Samui, which has benefited from Bangkok Airways' flight expansion. THANARAK KHUNTON
A ferry takes passengers from Donsak pier in Surat Thani to Koh Samui, which has benefited from Bangkok Airways' flight expansion. THANARAK KHUNTON

Increased air services are pushing Koh Samui into a year-round tourist destination, says hospitality market researcher and consultant C9 Hotelworks Co.

The flight expansion by Bangkok Airways and the emergence of Surat Thani as a secondary aviation gateway to the South have dramatically benefited tourism activities on the resort island of Samui.

The market-wide hotel occupancy rate on Samui hit 72% in 2016 with tourist arrivals at Samui airport reaching 1.2 million.

The company's Samui Hotel Market Update noted how the hospitality sector has changed with the emergence of Chinese travellers filling in the gaps of a once highly seasonal destination.

During the first nine months of last year, Chinese tourist arrivals to Samui grew 61% year-on-year, said C9 Hotelworks.

Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, said the steady growth of traffic at Surat Thani airport is expected to attract more tourists to Samui, especially in the mid-market and upscale segments. New hotels are in the pipeline in Samui geared towards these tourist markets.

Moreover, flight expansion by Bangkok Airways has increased routes from East Asia at the expense of Southeast Asia, he said. In the second quarter this year, the full-service carrier will increase flights from Samui to Chengdu to daily service, while it is expected to add Chongqing at a later date.

A 1-billion-baht plan to upgrade the island's airport is under bidding now and the first phase is expected to commence this year.

Mr Barnett said Samui's air traffic has increased, with flight arrivals last year rising 30% and forecast to grow further this year.

Samui is benefiting from the plug-and-play model of using Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok as both the number of domestic and international passengers grows on Bangkok Airways' routes while low-cost carriers are rapidly expanding in Surat Thani.

C9 forecasts positive market sentiment in Samui and a strong balance between hotel supply and demand with the coming development of new properties.

One of the most anticipated openings in 2017 is the 175-room Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui, a large-scale investment by Malaysia's YTL Group, said Mr Barnett.

Popular activities in Samui include scuba diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, boat tours to Moo Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park, a visit to the fishermen village at Bophut, pilgrimages to sacred and religious sites, and cooking classes.

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