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These tourists in Patong were cheered by a wave from a passing bus

Patong Beach Feels the Downturn Bite

Monday, February 16, 2009
Patong Photo Album Above

WE SET out to survey Patong's beach economy, with our reporting team fanning out along the ever-popular beach road.

And yes, we did get jumped by an aggressive time-share tout. And yes, he was difficult to shake off, and a pain in the neck, the kind of experience that tourists (and reporting teams) should not have to endure.

In taking Patong's pulse, we did find some interesting pointers. Shop owners were usually happy to give their names. Employees tended to not want to do that.

The conclusion from our survey: business is down on last high season. Regular guests return because they love the place. But they are spending much, much less.

Newcomers are harder to find.

People who once were prepared to stretch out on the beach and buy drinking water from the nearest vendor now go without a lounger or an umbrella, and bring their own drinking water, purchased more cheaply at a convenience store.

It may seem an over-simplification, but it sums up the reality. And the forecast is for more of the same for now.

While the site of one nightclub along the beachfront had an ''urgent rent'' sign outside it, another nightspot was being readied to open just a few doors along.

The Loma Park restaurants are still being renovated, with many tourists enjoying the taste of local food at a good price along the stretch of sidewalk outside the Muslim cemetery.

The complete beach vendor Jalan Jamnongrak oversees beach loungers, and runs a stall and a longtail tour business. He has been a fixture on Patong for more than 30 years.

I have a fishing net I am making myself to use in the low season, when the tourists are likely to disappear entirely. I will be able to feed my family, and maybe have some fish to sell, too. It's been a long while since I thought about doing that. My loungers and umbrellas go for 160 baht for two, with some free fruit as well. We have two lines of loungers at the southern end of the beach, so our prices have to be a bit lower to attract customers. Before the Bangkok airport blockade, we made an income of 15,000 to 20,000 baht a day in high season. Now that is running at 3000 baht to 4000 baht a day. Quite a drop, eh? Without the blockade, new customers would still be coming but they are worried about being trapped in Thailand. I think most Europeans still want to come and can afford to make the trip, although they do not spend as much. Newcomers are worried and so they are going to other places. Last high season, there was demand every day for longtail trips. Now that has dropped to once a week.

Umbrella and lounger man

Normally, we would have three lines of loungers along Patong beach in high season, This season, we've had just two. The price for a pair of loungers and an umbrella is 200 baht. It went up in November, and was set by the tessaban Patong. Customer numbers have dropped heavily on last year. I think it's due to the blockade and the world economy. People who have been to Phuket before come back, but new visitors are harder to find. They don't buy our water, or fruit, or a snack, even a burger, like they did before.

Masseuse, opposite Holiday Inn She's one of the masseuses who operate about 200 beds along the back of the beach.

I've been here for 25 years. I came originally from Bangkok. This is the worst I can remember, even compared to after the tsunami. It was plain then that things could only get better. Patong came back to life very quickly. Now, I am not so sure. Nobody seems to know. Perhaps my regular customers are still getting massages, but in the growing number of shops along the shorefront. I don't ever see a new face, only the old, familiar ones. Some of the familiar ones, who used to come every day if they stayed 10 days, walk on by.

Plait-maker and beauty sylist

I've been manicuring nails and doing plaited hair on the beach for more than 10 years. It's usually a good business. I sometimes have charged 5000 baht for a plaited head of hair. That can take two hours. Some days, I would have had four or even five people who wanted their hair done. These days, if I am lucky, I will have one. A very good day will bring three. Some days, there is no work at all. Up to five people will help to get the job done, and share the money. We do not see new guests. I blame the airport blockade for this.

Lounger veteran Sutin Tongmeesuk has been working on Patong beach for 10 years.

Customers have dropped a lot since December last year. January was, OK, but February is down again. I can see them sliding away from now on. The Thai baht is very strong, so the spending power of visitors does not go as far. My loungers are 200 baht for two. Prices went up in November from 160 baht. I have a sign up, trying to reduce the interruptions to my guests, telling beach vendors in Thai not to annoy my customers. People come here to relax, not to buy stuff every minute. Phuket will survive but if the Thai baht stays strong, it will keep newcomers away. The regulars will come.

Jetski staffer

It's getting close to noon and we've no had customers today. We just sit around, waiting. Some of the same faces we see back at the beach, but I think our riders have dropped by about 50 percent. I don't know what will happen along the beach if conditions get worse.

Car rental staffer

We used to rent at least one car a day for 1000 baht a day. Now it only happens some days. About 100 people are involved in renting cars and motorbikes along the beach road, in five different outlets. It's the same at all of them. We are not sure what will happen. The governor does not want us to put up signs saying ''cars for rent'' but if we don't advertise, we cannot find renters. There just do not seem to be enough tourists around for everybody to make money.

Phuket Economy in 2009

Economy: Governor Sparks Fresh Crisis Approach
With 2009 looming as a difficult time for tourism, the Governor of Phuket has put a plan in place to deal with big issues and complaints speedily.
Economy: Governor Sparks Fresh Crisis Approach

Andaman into Overdrive for Tourists in March
A survey of Phuket resorts shows the first indications of March bookings as the Andaman region gears up for world's most important travel fair in Berlin.
Andaman into Overdrive for Tourists in March

Phuket Airport Figures Chart 2009 Island Decline
Phuket passenger flight figures reflect the real scale of the island's downturn as calls come for realistic property prices and beach loungers come at a discount.
Phuket Airport Figures Chart 2009 Island Decline

Phuket Economic Outlook: No Reason to Smile Yet
Figures on real and projected occupancy rates through the high season on Phuket reflect predictions of a gloomy 2009. The good news for tourists: beaches will not be crowded.
Phuket Economic Outlook: No Reason to Smile Yet

Phuket Passenger Numbers Steady: 2009 Unclear
Phuket's passenger traffic through the island airport remained steady at 5.7 million in a year of ups and downs. As to the future, even the experts are not prepared to speculate.
Phuket Passenger Numbers Steady: 2009 Unclear

Phuket Tourist Figures Nosedive in Q2
In slow motion freefall, official TAT figures for Phuket for the second quarter of 2008 trend down almost as severely as in Q1. And the island's Aussie saviors are now in trouble, too.
Phuket Tourist Figures Nosedive in Q2

Phuket's Future Forecast: Darkness at Noon
Phuket has a reputation as a great holiday destination but an island economic guru is forecasting a high season downturn of up to 30 percent, plus years of pain. Resorts are ducking for cover.
Phuket's Future Forecast: Darkness At Noon


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Hello patong, concerning the downturn in tourist numbers, many foreigners feel patong has become increasingly dirty, the pavements are full of holes, and are nver washed. Bangla Rd is a stinking , filthy area, with dirty water stagnant in front of shops and bars . What a shame, a few years back it looked like it was getting cleaner .
Also , the high Thai baht does not help, and neither do the murders and attacks on buisness people, Thai or otherwise . I think phuket should be cleaned up quickly, and the unsightly bulding development stopped, otherwise it will soon be the end of tourism .I have been coming here since 1984, so I have witnessed all this decline, though I love Phuket and its people very much .

Posted by elizabeth on February 24, 2009 14:27


Now it must happen. Patong, Kamala, Karon and so on must be cleaned up, or the tourist will stop coming.

Posted by kalle on March 2, 2009 21:18

Thursday April 18, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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