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Phuket is again a place that's seen as good value for visitors

Phuket Becomes Tourism Target: Outlook Positive

Wednesday, February 3, 2010
PHUKET and Thailand appear to be surging back as travel destinations - if the latest air passenger numbers and positive industry feedback prove to be an accurate guide.

The two popular travel brands are certainly better placed now than 12 months ago, and much better than in May, after the aborted Asean Songkran conference in Pattaya.

Eight months of relative stability, give or take talk of a coup or a war with Cambodia, have added sheen, and perhaps even a glint now and again, to the Phuket and Thailand labels.

Latest figures show a rise of 29.11 percent in year-on-year peak seasons at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, which is where many tourists enter Thailand on the way to Phuket.

Total numbers between December 25 and January 5 hit 1,668,863 compared to 1,292,627 last season, with flights also up by 10.78 percent.

Figures for the last quarter of 2009 are up by 42.94 percent, which is only to be expected considering the damage done by the eight-day Suvarnabhumi sit-in late in 2008.

A total of 11,481,827 people passed through the capital's main airport in Q4 2009, with international visitors totalling 8,581,469, up 33.95 percent. Domestic travel rose 78.35 percent.

Some Phuket resorts are already saying that February is shaping as a better month than January, which is encouraging. Fortunately, bad memories fade fast.

And in Britain Post Office Travel Money, the country's largest provider of foreign exchange, reports that the Thai baht has moved up to tenth place in its 20 bestselling currencies for 2009, a list dominated by the euro and the US dollar.

With Thai baht purchases up 15 percent last year, Thailand was one of seven destinations recording sizeable increases in currency sales at Post Office bureaux de change.

''Thailand appears to be bouncing back impressively in 2010,'' says another report, this time from the DialAFlight booking agency.

''DialAFlight has observed a massive upsurge in bookings with a growth of nearly 60 percent. Phuket is proving especially popular and is now firmly established as DialAFlight's number one Thai destination.''

This is probably because of the widespread discounting, practiced by everyone except the drivers of tuk-tuks and taxis, whose philosophy on the economic crisis makes no allowances for sharing the pain.

Thailand's capacity to turn a golden future into straw is well known. But the hope is that, barring political foolishness or some unexpected upheaval, 2010 could be considerably brighter than 2009.

A spokesperson for DialAFlight commented: ''The Thai tourist industry has done a great job of turning a bad situation around and the country has quickly re-established itself as South East Asia's most popular travel destination.

''Thailand's reputation as a great value-for-money travel destination is well established and, as ever, visitors to the country should be able to find some real bargains.''
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