Not enough tourists for Koh Samui hotels

Oversupply has operators struggling

Foreign tourists lounge on Chaweng beach on Koh Samui. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)

Hoteliers in Koh Samui are suffering from oversupply, dragging down the occupancy rate.

The occupancy rate on the island during the final quarter this year, as of Dec 20, has plunged to 30% from 50% in the same period of 2018, said Vorasit Pongkumpunt, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui.

During the last two weeks of December, the occupancy rate should rise to 90%, putting it at 50% for the year.

He attributed the low figures to the strong baht and trade war, as major markets such as the Chinese flock to cheaper beach destinations in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The slowdown will linger into the first quarter next year, considered the high season for the island.

The occupancy rate for next year's first quarter in Samui stands at 35%, down from 50-60%, according to bookings.

Mr Vorasit said the situation in the upcoming year should worsen because at least 1,000 hotel rooms from big hotel chains are going to be added on the island, while the number of tourists has not kept pace.

Hoteliers will be involved in a price war because of the glut of 30,000 rooms, which will eventually lead to layoffs and other social problems, he said.

There are about 40 flights to Samui airport, operated by SET-listed Bangkok Airways, with 3,000-4,000 passengers per day.

This pales in comparison to Phuket, which has 200 flights per day.

Mr Vorasit said he would like the airline to consider providing cheaper airfare to attract more tourists to Koh Samui, especially during the off-peak season of October-November.

He also suggested lowering the landing fee at the airport to draw more chartered flights.

Some 40% of tourists visit the island by air via Samui airport, while the remainder use ferry services from Surat Thani.

Mr Vorasit said to facilitate tourists, a cruise pier at Koh Samui is necessary to serve cruise ship travellers, a segment that has potential to increase tourism spending and add to the occupancy rate when they stay overnight.

This idea was presented to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn during his trip to meet with operators in Koh Samui earlier this month.

This year 55 cruise ships are expected to visit Koh Samui, averaging 2,500 tourists, with 60% spending their time on the island shopping and sightseeing.

Another 62 cruise ships are projected to dock at the island next year, with 48 ships scheduled for 2021.