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Gulu Lalvani announces the conference project on August 5

Phuket To Gain Billion Baht Conference Centre

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
A CONFERENCE and exhibition centre is to open at Royal Phuket Marina in December then evolve into a larger space that developers say could eventually cost one billion baht.

The ''RPM Convention Hall'' will cover 2500 square metres and be capable of catering to a thousand people in its first phase, and grow larger with subsequent development.

Phuketwan understands that the marina's chairman, Gulu Lalvani, is also considering applications from various international brands for a luxury resort on existing land at the marina.

Mr Lalvani, a mobile telephones tycoon who has made Phuket a business base for yachting-related projects, told journalists today at the announcement of the conference centre project:

''Phuket's economy is booming, tourism is at an all-time high, and the island is a natural magnet for growing international demand for conventions and exhibitions.

''I'm confident that Phuket will be placed firmly on the international convention centre and exhibition map.''

He added that the centre would be a ''shot in the arm'' for Phuket's resort-based economy.

Mr Lalvani expects the facility, three times larger than any existing premises and capable of housing 100 booths, will host one or two high-profile events each month from 2009.

Over time, the conference centre facilities will be able to expand to 10,000 square metres as demand increases. Mr Lalvani told Phuketwan that the investment would grow to one billion baht.

The annual Phuket International Marine Expo, opening on December 4, will be the first event to be staged at the conference centre, which is being created in an existing building underneath second-floor marina condominiums.

Partner in the project is Informa, an international conference group said to stage more than 10,000 events each year.

Informa yacht group CEO Will Morris told the centre announcement gathering: ''We are delighted to extend our global business commitment and presence in Phuket.''

He added that Phuket ''has the potential to become a leading international venue for conventions and expos.''

Given the inability of many would-be visitors to gain seats on flights to Phuket at present, there was some irony in one paragraph in the announcement handout:

''The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects growth of another 20 percent in 2008, as the number of flights to Phuket reaches 120 per day.''

Those figures may already be out of date. In the wake of the cessation of Nok Air flights to Phuket, the suspension of One-Two-Go and the rising price of a long-haul flight, they are likely to be lowered even further.

But the conference centre developers can be forgiven for being optimistic at the launch.

Informa staff were already researching prospects for future events, Mr Morris said. Ideas included an Asia diving conference, a Christmas fair, arts and antiques, health and fitness, and a car and bike show.

''The potential is huge,'' he added, along with the possible boost to the local economy.

Phuket and Phuket Royal Marina would benefit from promotion generated by Informa's presence at other global events.

Phuketwan OPINION

Phuketwan believes that the RPM conference and exhibition project is the ''big cheese'' that island MICE advocates have been waiting for years to see in place.

But will the airlines do the right thing and help to carry passengers to conferences on Phuket? Let's hope so.

Another question the conference centre announcement raises is where it leaves the future of the Ao Phuket project.

That 100 billion baht plan for a marina, resort and conference centre on reclaimed land off Phuket City was recently earmarked for an official feasibility study after 20 years of gentle consideration.

If a suitable conference centre can be built on dry land for one billion baht, why waste 100 billion baht on an engineer's dream?

The Ao Phuket project is 20 years too late, has little support and will be too expensive, even for the rich.

But Phuket could certainly do with the 100 billion baht, especially if it was spent on infrastructure and improvements that the island really needs.

No doubt the national government will be extremely generous in the next budget allocation. After all, the island contributed 90 billion baht to national coffers in 2007.

And Phuket needs financial assistance now to keep the tourism money coming.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


"No doubt the national government will be extremely generous in the next budget allocation." Sure about that? If I recall correctly, Phuket voted Democrat in the last election . . . hasn't earned many brownie points with the current admin.

Editor:That sentence was written tongue-in-cheek. Yes, Phuket is unlikely to gain more funding, even though it's an iniquitous situation.

Posted by Roberta on August 6, 2008 21:16

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