Bangkok's loss is Phuket, Samui's gain

Bangkok's loss is Phuket, Samui's gain

Phuket and Samui islands saw a sharp increase in direct flights as both destinations benefited from the political crisis, says Phuket-based hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks.

Bill Barnett, the company’s managing director, said international passenger arrivals to Phuket rose 26% to 3.25 million and Samui 37% to 1.7 million last year, even though protests did not start in Bangkok until late October.

Chinese and Russian tourists were key drivers of demand on the two islands, with each group posting gains in Phuket of 67% and 41%, respectively.

International passenger arrivals to Bali posted 9% growth to 3.5 million in 2013, but the gain was absorbed into an avalanche of new hotel rooms that have caused local industry concerns over oversupply.

Mr Barnett said Bali is a key rival of Phuket. He said June 30, 2013 was the first time the spread of foreign arrivals for Phuket and Bali narrowed after five straight years of strong growth for Phuket. During the first six months of last year, Phuket’s foreign arrivals rose 30% year-on-year to about 1.7 million, only 80,000 fewer than Bali.

The occupancy rate in Phuket was 74% last year, while it was 73% in Samui. The latter saw a record high of 1.7 million visitors last year, with 88% from overseas.

C9 Hotelworks research pinpointed air travel as the main component of sustainable tourism growth to Thailand’s resort markets. The limitation of Samui’s private airport capacity has been bypassed with a nearby international airport at Surat Thani.

Over the past two years, annualised passenger arrivals there grew by 38% and 32%, boosted by a combination of domestic and direct overseas flights.

"Feedback from hotels remains positive, given the dynamics of the shorter-term booking horizon. Trading trends have shown the potential to claw back any lost business due to external events within a compressed time period," he said.

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