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Call for debate: TAT assistant director Anoma Vongyai

High Season Tourism Boom Sparks 'Sustainability' Debate

Friday, March 7, 2008
PRELIMINARY TAT figures for 2007 show a surge in foreign visitors that appears to have continued to boost occupancy rates through January and February.

The TAT assistant director, Anoma Vongyai, says there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to support ''Charlie's Theory on the Phuket Economy'' - that while package tours have pushed numbers higher this high season, discretionary spending fell alarmingly.

Diving outlets, restaurants and other businesses have all expressed surprise and disappointment at the financial downside to the numbers upsurge.

Figures provided to Phuketwan by the TAT show 2.93 million foreign visitors stayed in the 628 resorts and guesthouses on Phuket in 2007, an increase of 7.45 percent on 2006.

A steady number of a million-plus Thai visitors took the total to 4,005,090.

Australians (345,641 up 31 percent) Britons (282,309 up 34 percent) and Swedes (228,746 up 6.3 percent) were the big three, followed by Korea, Germany and China.

Russians provided a surge, up 40.7 percent to 122,419.

But Eastern Europe led the real boom, rising 121.6 percent to 62,779, with Finland (73,797 up 58.7 percent) France 79,291 (up 20.97) and the Middle East (96,749 up 29 percent) adding greater breadth to the market base.

Taiwan slipped almost 28 percent and Singapore (down 25 percent) and Hong Kong (down 8.7 percent) were also disappointing. Perhaps the Macau casinos can be blamed.

Despite economic gloom in some market segments, revenue from both foreign and Thai visitors was put at 94,239 million baht for the year, up 21.45 percent.

The occupancy rate rose to 65.82 percent, up 5.13 percent.

To those initial figures will be added, with the help of Immigration, arrivals by sea and long-stay visitors in villas and condos.

From 2008, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport's Tourism Development branch has taken over compilation of the figures.

The TAT's Khun Anoma told Phuketwan: ''Many businesspeople talk about lack of income this year. The number of tourists has increased but not everybody's income.

''Occupancy rates seem to be very good during Chinese New Year too but diving and some other activities, including some restaurants, are not doing as well.

''Some repeat visitors also discover how to live locally and spend less. We have to find the right balance

''It's easy to say we need quality tourists and more revenue but how to achieve that goal is not so easy.''

She said that more people on Phuket needed to consider and discuss the future of the island at seminars, workshops and meetings.

''Do the local people want the number of tourists to increase every year, or no more hotels, villas, no more increases?''

It's a vital question. But can it be done?

''It depends on them (Phuket residents),'' Khun Anoma said. ''People need to know what the choices are. It depends on Government policy as well.''

She said intense development of the island was continuing, raising the need for sustainability as a long-term strategy.

''Some businesses think we need more visitors but there has to be a balance. We need quality tourists who will spend more.''

Japan and Korea were important target markets for the coming low season, which seemed to be shaping up quite well. The Middle East market, along with Australia, also looked promising.

''The number of tourists is increasing but we have to have resources, starting with Customs and Immigration at the airport and all people who work in the tourist industry.

''There is a shortage of qualified staff.''

The key to the future, she said, lay with setting a finite maximum ''carrying capacity'' of Phuket, defining the island's ability to support a certain number of residents and visitors.

But how do you set the limit and make it work? That seems to be the difficult part.

Most people seem to accept that uncontrolled development will not be to the ultimate benefit of Phuket and its residents. But who says ''Stop,'' and how?

More on Charlie's Theory of the Phuket Economy by Guy ''Charlie'' Lidureau, the far from cheap proprietor of Seafarer Divers:


Complete article



Other national figures for 2007 include China (168,707 (up 8.39 percent) Japan 115,751 (up 0.76 percent) Korea (down 6.26 percent) Germany 173,480 (up 0.79) Austria 32,326 (down 0.21) Denmark 64,729 (up 3.46) Italy 61,173 (up 9.02) Netherlands 38,054 (up 0.63) Norway 43,009 (down 10.42) Switzerland 69,839 (down 3.89) USA 95,942 (up 2.37) Canada 29,765 (down 2.48).

Especially promising for the future were Israel 29,549 (up 27.04) South Africa 25,660 (up 15.96) India 40,791 (up 15.71) and Spain 20,903 (up 13.17).

Comments

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I'd like to know why the Thai Government does nothing to address the, in my opinion, over-valued Baht, which I've heard is propped up by the Government. I don't think the old argument that they try to maintain parity with the $US holds true when you look back to its history. For many people, everything in Phuket is now around 30% more expensive. For us to live here is now more expensive on many items than it is in Perth, Australia. The Thais are pricing themselves out of the market on tourism and exports.
There is little incentive for people to invest or spend here when there is so little value to their currency. There is more incentive, in fact, for people currently invested in Thailand to sell and make a larger profit due to the high baht value.
It's little wonder that most of the people I know that are going overseas are now heading to Bali instead of Phuket. Bali is once again red-hot if you go on the number of people I've spoken to that have headed there lately or are going soon.

Posted by Tina on February 11, 2009 11:26


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