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People remain willing to risk long queues to visit Phuket

New Airport Record as 8.4m Come and Go

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
PHUKET: Statistics reveal a total of 8,467,995 arrivals and departures through Phuket International Airport in 2011, according to just-released Airports of Thailand figures. This is a hike of 20.22 percent.

International comings and goings rose by 30.77 percent to 4,370,719. This figure is in line with the Tourism Authority of Thailand's estimate of two million tourist visitors to Phuket in 2011, based on Immigration statistics.

Phuket's two million international arrivals compare with an estimated 2.7 million for South East Asia regional rival Bali.

There are times when property promoters read these figures badly and suggest that Phuket has eight million visitors a year . . . the number of arrivals from overseas is actually as Airports of Thailand and the TAT agree, about two million.

With the total airport figure rising from 5,779,918 in 2009 to 7,043,783 in 2010 to 8,467,995 in 2011, it means Phuket remains in a steady upward trajectory.

A rise of 21.87 percent in 2010 has been followed by a rise of 20.22 percent in 2011.

Bearing in mind that the Phuket facility's official maximum capacity of 6.5 million has been made to look ridiculous in the past two years, how much longer can it continue to rise at this rate?

Completion of the extension that will take Phuket's capacity to 12.5 million has now been put back from November 2014 to early 2015 - another six months, let's say generously - crowding at the airport will continue to plague passengers as they come and go.

Queues that are already eye-glazing are likely to grow and grow . . .

At the top end of the Phuket market, some five-star resort managers have noted softness in the figures for the 2011-2012 peak season. And because Chinese New Year comes early this year, on January 23, no boost will come in February.

Whether this early negativity means figures overall will flatten out in 2012 remains to be seen. Certainly, three-star resorts have been lifting lately in occupancy when compared to four-star and five-stars because Chinese travellers are coming in greater numbers.

Any falling away of European visitors in 2012 will be a loss for the Phuket environmental movement simply because the Europeans and the Australians are better educated about the need to preserve the coral reefs and beaches and less likely to trash them through ignorance.

Because tour guides often have a lackadaisical approach, too much standing on reefs and souveniring chunks of coral takes place.

With Phuket airport likely to grow more packed between now and 2015, there are fears that the next three years could see the island reshaped from its trim overall appeal - high-end to backpackers - to a tell-tale bulging paunch consisting of mass-market travellers.

The next three years will determine whether Phuket can continue to match world's most appealing tropical island destinations, or whether a downward slide in environmental quality will become evident.

Already some ''quality'' tourists are beginning to find the neighboring Krabi and Phang Nga provinces more attractive.

Thailand's government has yet to commit to a tourism strategy that recognises Phuket inevitably becoming a city-island and as relief retards development in its two green ''lungs.''

Phuket's future depends on Krabi and Phang Nga not being permitted to become fully-developed suburbs of Phuket, the island city.

It's a telling time for Thai tourism.

Calendar year 2011 produced an overall increase of 16.69 percent to a total number of 56,673 flights on and off Phuket. International flights rose by 23.58 percent, domestic by 10.36.

Passenger figures for December were up 10.65 percent to 808,890 comings and goings, with international at 449,859 (up 16.41 percent) compared to domestic 359,031 ( up 4.18 percent.)

With 2010 marked by a man-made disaster (the red rebellion) and 2011 by a natural one (the Bangkok floods) the crystal ball for Phuket tourism in 2012 remains cloudy.

At least the turnstiles at Phuket International are still ticking.

Comments

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I nearly missed a flight today trying to find a parking spot- was chased off by the limo 'm****' at one point. Most taken over by black taxis and a large area cordoned off for buses whilst not 100m away there's a huge empty area near the cargo terminal that's blocked off. I would quite happily walk the extra distance even though its where all the 'favored' vehicles should be parked. This was supposed to be sorted out 4 months ago - let's get a grip, AoT.

Posted by Mister Ree on January 10, 2012 21:17

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Look at those queues. Which one do you pick to stand and wait in?
When are the authorities at the airport going to PLEASE adopt the single line queue for visitors (and another for Thais)? A level playing field for all. That way it wouldn't matter if an immigration chappie did saunter out to a desk making everyone in the individual queues try and guess where to run to!

Posted by Peter on January 11, 2012 02:34

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Watch out for this scam

If you park your motorcycle pay nothing, it's free to park there! two times a employee at the airport turned up and try to charge me 100-300tbh a day

phuket airport is really a messy place!

Posted by Joakim on January 11, 2012 11:11

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-Joakim-
where did you park, in the area preserved for Motobikes or just somewhere?
If somewhere, can be a reason for their talking.
I did also park somewhere - near the exit cash boxes and got bad looks.
But I was in a hurry and did not care.

Posted by Alfred on January 11, 2012 19:16

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Who sucks these numbers out of fresh air? South Africa is much much bigger than Phuket and they had only 4 million in the whole of 2011? I think the stats here lie a lot to save face, or something.
How the hell can we believe you, sing along now . . .

Posted by Robin on January 17, 2012 20:06

Editor Comment:

Do you think they rent a crowd, Robin, and have them catch flights to Phuket to convey the impression the airport is jam-packed?

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After some good investigative work, these figures are false. 70% are expat visa runners from Phuket. So wah wah wah, you lie to look good. Not true at all.

Posted by Dun on January 17, 2012 20:56


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