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Burmese workers are among the first to benefit from the Phuket jobs boom

More Island Jobs Likely as Brands Expand

Friday, January 11, 2008
TWO BIG resort brands have revealed their plans for expanding on Phuket in 2008-2009, pumping up the competition and taking the island further upmarket.

Marriott-Courtyard is moving onto Phuket in a big way, ending the splendid isolation that the upscale Marriott resort has enjoyed at the north end of the island until now.

What this should mean is a broader range of options for accommodation and dining, plus more intense marketing and a rapid increase in the number of visitors from North America and Europe.

Carlson Hotels is also on the way, with some details now known about its plans for The Regent Phuket Cape Panwa.

As Taj and Raffles are already coming soon and the wreck of the Sofitel in Phang Nga is finally being refurbished as a Kempinski, the next two years promise unprecedented growth in Andaman Coast resort rooms.

Phuket's boom, it seems, may be just beginning. You ain't seen nothing yet. Thailand's richest province is on the way to even better things.

While this is great for business and for job-seekers, it also puts added pressure on local authorities to protect the island's natural treasures and deliver its promises of a public transport system and better infrastructure.

Five-star resorts won't necessarily make Phuket a five-star destination without the financial backing of the new national government, especially.

The TAT reports that the number of rooms on the island has already risen in 2007 by 14 percent to 37,543 rooms at 628 establishments, up from 552 in 2006.

Another 5000 rooms are available in the rapidly growning Phang Nga market, with more to come.

This is an amazing level of growth, given the damage wrought by the 2004 tsunami.

As for Marriott-Courtyard, the scope of its investment on the island and throughout Thailand has just been revealed for the first time.

The most anticipated of Marriott's activities will be the conversion of the Kamala Terrace Resort, opened in 1993, into the 202-room Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa at Kamala Cove, or Layi beach as it is also known.

This is in the heart of the island's hottest spot, along the coast road from Andara and the Rockfish restaurant.

We've checked out the site and work is proceeding rapidly, although it appears that little of the old resort has been left standing.

Among the many attractions already being promoted is that it will offer ''the largest swimming pool on Phuket.''

Given the Marriott's reputation and the fact that the views from the hillside rival the island's best, we can't wait to see the suites, each with its own plunge pool.

But that's just one of many new delights as this major global brand adds 11 new properties to the eight properties it already has in Thailand, with Phuket central to Marriott's expansion plans.

On the way as well as the Kamala Cove resort and the ''adjacent sequel resort,'' to the original Marriott, Marriott Mai Khao Beach (opening mid 2008) are:

.. a 385-room Courtyard Phuket at Patong (mid-2008)

..a 256-room Courtyard Phuket at Surin Beach (early-2008)

..a 180-room Courtyard Phuket at Kamala Beach (mid-2008).

Combined, these new resorts and refurbishments give the brand a presence on Phuket rivalled only by Laguna Phuket and Centara in terms of resorts, room numbers and staff.

The president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott, Ed Fuller, has been quoted as saying: ''We are thrilled by the rapid expansion of our lodging brands not only throughout Thailand, but specifically in Phuket.''

While Marriott is moving onto Phuket in a large way in combination with Destination Properties, Laguna Phuket's immediate international focus is on opening a similar large resort sanctuary in Vietnam as the rollout of resorts in exotic locations across several continents under the Banyan Tree brand continues.

Laguna Phuket is still considered by many as the local quality brand made good while Marriott is a global giant, with more than 3000 properties carrying its deluxe Marriott and Renaissance brands, its upper-moderate-priced Courtyard by Marriott brand, and its Marriott Executive Apartments properties for extended-stay travelers.

Cape Panwa, with spectacular views to rival those of Kamala Cove, is also a desirable investment for international brands, although as Phuketwan reported exclusively recently, Conrad is no longer coming.

In its place, scheduled to open in March 2009, is The Regent Phuket Cape Panwa, which is, according to a media release, ''set to redefine standards of luxurious hospitality and service excellence on the island.''

We think the new Carlson might have a few challengers, but that's great to hear.

Featuring 106 rooms with private balconies, The Regent Phuket Cape Panwa will also offer a 55-metre swimming pool, tennis court, gym facilities and spa with 10 treatment rooms.

Meanwhile, two large function rooms will cater for meetings, parties and special events of all sorts.

International gatherings of organisations and corporations are likely to be a new marketing battlefront, both locally among the five-star brands and globally among Phuket's regional rivals.

Martin Rinck, President and Managing Director of Carlson Hotels Worldwide,Asia Pacific, is quoted as saying: ''Regent is an iconic brand in luxury hospitality and we are proud to establish its presence in Thailand with The Regent Phuket Cape Panwa.

''We are very excited about this latest resort development in Phuket, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world,'' said.

Carlson will be opening six other properties in Bangkok, Phuket and Krabi over the next two years.

Thailand's job-seekers and marketing executives will be excited as well, when they hear.

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