Delayed high season for Phuket hotels

Delayed high season for Phuket hotels

November occupancy rate dips to 50-60%

Tourists climb stairs to see Phuket's Big Buddha, a revered landmark on the southern island. The high season is starting later than usual this year. Sarot Meksophawannakul
Tourists climb stairs to see Phuket's Big Buddha, a revered landmark on the southern island. The high season is starting later than usual this year. Sarot Meksophawannakul

The high season for hoteliers in Phuket will come late this year as rooms are not being snapped up until after Christmas.

Generally the flow of tourists on the popular island increases in November, but this year the occupancy rate was a mere 50-60% last month, compared with 70% last year, said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotels Association southern chapter.

The low occupancy rate continued in the first half this month, except for 4- and 5-star hotels located near beaches. Higher occupancy rates, at 70-80%, were also seen at hotels in the Patong area.

Mr Kongsak expects the occupancy rate will pick up to 90% or fully booked from Christmas until January.

He said hotels in Phuket have been suffering from an oversupply as fast-growing tourism attracts new investment and illegal hotels.

There are 250,000 rooms in 3,000 hotels in the province, of which only 600 with 50,000 rooms are legally registered.

Of the remaining 2,400 hotels, some 1,000 are pending licences to operate legally, following rules issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, while the rest have no operating licences nor plans to legally register, said Mr Kongsak.

For the outlook in 2020, he believes Phuket will remain a preferred destination for international tourists, even as more Chinese visit other countries such as Vietnam or the Philippines.

During this time, he suggests authorities and local operators prepare for their return by improving safety measures and drawing up regulations to deal with zero-dollar tours to ensure travellers receive proper and standardised services.

Diversifying the market in Phuket, relying less on Chinese tourists, is also a key to improving tourism in the province, said Mr Kongsak.

He called for the government to maintain visa facilitation, especially waiving the 2,000-baht visa-on-arrival fees to help offset falling tourists because of the strong baht, helping to engender positive emotions to stimulate arrivals.

Kanokkittika Kritwutikon, director of the Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said as the number of tourists who travel independently rises to 60% of overall, new pitches other than sun and sand are needed to better disperse visitors within the province.

She said the TAT next year plans to introduce new emerging destinations such as Koh Lon, which is only 12 minutes away from the mainland and offers abundant natural resources; Koh Racha where tourists can experience the life like a local; and a one-day trip to Koh Mai Thon.

She said community-based tourism also helps diversify the segment, such as in Phuket Old Town, Ban Tha Chat Chai in Mai Khao sub-district, Tha Lang district and the ecotourism community at Ban Bang Rong in Pa Khlok sub-district.

The office reported 11.2 million trips in the province during the first 11 months this year, down by 0.2% from the same period last year, generating 360 billion baht in income, up by 6.01%. Average spending was 7,246 baht per head per day, up 6.5%.

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