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Phuket's rapid expansion calls for a sensible, balanced strategy

Phuket Tourism Crush Tipped to Smash All Records

Saturday, October 9, 2010
News Analysis

PASSENGER numbers on flights to and from Phuket should increase to record levels this high season, bursting the six-million and possibly even the seven-million barrier for the calendar year.

Phuket International Airport general manager Prathuang Sornkhom told Phuketwan that he expected a 25 percent increase on last season's November-April air traffic.

He was being interviewed to mark the airport's 22nd birthday yesterday.

The predicted passenger surge will carry Phuket airport beyond what had previously been considered its 6.5 million arrival and departures maximum number limit.

The total number of arrivals and departures from October 2009 to the end of September 2010 topped 6.7 million, indicating that previous record numbers will be easily exceeded in calendar year 2010.

Khun Prathuang said that Airports of Thailand, the state-owned body that manages the Phuket airport, had had to accept that it needed to take action to lift the airport's capacity now and in the future.

Passengers were coming on 38 airlines, mostly from Australia, China, Korea and Europe, he said.

Qatar Airways adds six flights a week on Tuesday from Doha to Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, and AirAsia is expected to announce flights from Phuket to Bali next month. Bangkok Airways is also offering new flights from Phuket via Samui to Trat.

The biggest unanswered question remains how Phuket airport authorities will cope with the planned expansion of the airport to handle 12.5 million - and as now seems increasingly likely, 15 million - incoming and outgoing passengers.

Khun Prathuang said that an agenda for the progressive growth in arrival and departure status of the airport would only become available once a construction company was appointed for the expansion.

The big test for airport management and the constructors will be to continue to steadily grow Phuket airport's capacity amid dramatic alterations to terminals and infrastructure.

The President of Airports of Thailand, Serirat Prasutanond, told a seminar on Phuket in August that the planned expansion was to carry the airport to a capacity to handle 12.5 million passengers before March 2014.

But he also added that demolition of the existing staff quarters at the southern edge of the airport could increase the planning and capacity to 15 million. Based on the latest projections, that extra work becomes an absolute necessity.

There is no other way to cope with brand Phuket's unstoppable drawing power in the international marketplace. Most of these huge increases are in international passenger numbers, not the domestic market.

Travellers to Phuket are clearly sensing that from the island, connecting to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and other key parts of the region becomes easy.

The rising global appeal of Phuket only makes the recent decision to overlook Phuket as Thailand's candidate for World Expo 2020 look more and more foolish. Phuket is clearly becoming, as Khun Prathuang has previously noted, as different from Bangkok as a tourist magnet as Hong Kong is from Beijing.

As a corollary to the expected increase in passenger numbers, establishing the right balance between the rapid expansion of the tourism and property industries and the Andaman region's natural charms becomes a priority for local and national governments.

How will they cope?

Readers should note that AoT statistics record both arrivals and departures, so each visitor is counted both coming and going. Travel for business as well as pleasure is inevitably included in the totals.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


How many of these tourists will come back once they will experience the jungle of touts at the airport,taxi and tuk-tuk rip off fares, jetski xxxxx, dirt and stink in Patong together with no clear walkways at all, especially for families with children ?

Posted by cekipa on October 9, 2010 09:54

Editor Comment:

The answer is: most of them. Why? Because the positives in favor of Phuket far outweigh the negatives. Aren't you overstating your criticism?


Cekipa is not criticising ! I believe he or she lives in phuket and only clearly exposing the problems !!!! before (or at the same time) expanding the airport runway, don't be blind and clear the stinky Bangla "Runway" !! Don't lie to tourists on magazines or else (or you ll see them once only!)

Posted by serge on October 9, 2010 11:20

Editor Comment:

There is no denying Phuket has problems but the expat residents are far more vocal about them than the tourists.


Like bars that rip off customers with inflated bills the system is geared to constant ever increasing new arrivals. Repeat custom ?? Who cares ?? Next high season's on its way !!

Posted by LivinLOS on October 9, 2010 11:46


Editor has his head up his rear.

Posted by realistic on October 9, 2010 14:18

Editor Comment:

Now that's a really intelligent comment, No cliches for you, eh?
Best of luck with your career in proctology.


I can get a ticket to Phuket for much the same price as I could 18 years ago. Undoubtedly this helps account for the increase in passenger numbers. Even though the numbers might be up this high season, I'm betting that per/head the spending will be down.

Posted by Antz Pantz on October 9, 2010 14:34


Regardless of what one may think of the readers or the editors comments here, personal insults should not be tolerated.(i.e. "realistic" )

Equally publishing the email address of such an abusive reader is not acceptable either.

It would be better if the abusive comments would simply not be published at all and any retaliatory comments by the editor, justified or not, would also remain unpublished.

I'm not trying to tell anyone how to run their news outlet but I think we can all do without both the abusive and the resulting smart-ass commentary here.

Right ?

Posted by Peter C on October 9, 2010 14:46

Editor Comment:

Some readers imagine all other readers are as civil and balanced as they are. The insults that come my way mostly have no effect - but they are an indication that not all attitudes on or about Phuket are sensible and worth consideration.

An email address is as meaningless as any anonymous tag, Peter. But there are times when the quota of insults and derogatory comments exceeds my patience. You should reads the ones that are not publishable.

Is this something you'd rather not know? Are there other aspects of our forthright coverage you'd rather not read?

Am I here to be insulted, right or wrong, and to meekly not respond, no matter what? Not in my opinion, Peter.

I don't wish to start an argument, and I do understand your concern, but when all is said and done, surely what's acceptable on this site is up to me?

Send your subscription cheque, and I will feel obliged to give my attitude and approach greater thought.


An efficient airport, even better as an Asian tourist hub, is THE key to Phuket's growth and success in future. You have to think for decades to come!

Phuket took the bet to be a tourist destination with a more urban and little beach touch. Phuket already has first class shopping, first class medical institutions - could be a star in the coming rejuvenation industry - and a variety of great resorts and wellness accommodations.

Phuket has hookers, vibrant nightlife, boxing, cheap apartments etc.etc. And Phuket will be one big city soon.

Need more nature, more silence, more family, diving, great islands? Go to wider Phuket, aka Phang nga or Krabi, Similan Islands or Phiphi. Most only one hour by car (at nerve wrecking speeding). Add to that mix the airport as an easy use hub to all South East Asia, that will pull in the customers like crazy.

So (Greater) Phuket is already a you-get-it-all destination.

Forward thinking planning should prepare the islands essential infrastructure, aka strong wireless and cable communications, water, electric, waste and private and public transport, where (ceterum censeo) I strongly advocate Phuket to become ''Asia's Green Island'', by banning fuel combustion (so 18th century) for new motorbikes and all tuktuk and taxis in the near future and going electric with all vehicles a little later, what would give Thailand a necessary boost to jump start this industry).

And of course its main entrance and exit, that is the airport.

Therefore: Please do not stop in thinking of only 15M flight passengers a year. Think ahead. With the right planning you will have 30M+ in 10-15 years. So, second runway, bigger terminals!

But first, please please please clean the mess in your front-yard. Make it an efficient parking zone. Right now is just crazy. ;)

Posted by Lena on October 9, 2010 14:52

Editor Comment:

OK, but how do you keep the city on Phuket and stop it spreading until all of Phang Nga and Krabi are also covered with shophouses, and tourists have to drive to Ranong or Trang for nature?


Lena some good ideas. Now about electric vehicles, cars and bikes. Let me just add that Phuket would have to supply a lot of electricity to power all the battery chargers to charge these batteries. Then there is the question of how to dispose of the used batteries?
Good idea but not practical at the present moment.

Posted by Robin on October 9, 2010 15:50

Editor Comment:

There is no more room at Phuket airport, either, so beyond 2014 there will be no increase in the number of passengers to Phuket . . . but the number of resorts will just keep on growing.


Spare a thought for those who commute to Singapore every week - there are many here. Three of us doing (say) 44 trips a year will show in AoT figures as 264 'tourists'. Add to that all those doing visa runs etc. makes a mockery of the tourist figures. Hmmmmmmm, maybe something not quite right here!

Posted by Pete on October 9, 2010 16:19

Editor Comment:

Business trips and visa runs out of Phuket by resident expats are unlikely to have a significant impact on the totals, although it's certainly true that in a perfect world, they shouldn't be categorised as tourists. This tally, though, is about arrivals and departures. The AoT doesn't draw any other inference.


@Robin: China already put more electric scooters then gasoline suckers into business right now.

It is a complete new industry, less mechanics and repair shops, no gasoline stations, but a simple battery exchange station. That is a level plain field. Expect for e.g. every wheel fitted with a little electric engine, small enough to stay in the wheel house and the battery cells built in the chassis everywhere. Designer will love it. See it like the revolution in telecommunication from landline telephone to mobile phones. Only with cars and (motor)bikes. Expect some Vodafone or Hutchinson do to Mercedes-Benz / Ford, what the first ones did to British Telecom or ATT.

Why do every vehicle has to produce its energy by itself? Because that's all we know, since we were little? Maybe a bigger engine, atomic reactors or solar / wind / growing fuels power could do the trick better?

There is even a new business model possible, that you get the scooter for little money or nothing (like a mobile) and you buy the energy with this company and/or monthly rate. By recharging at home or by exchange of empty batteries at a station, like a refill. You pay by use. Consider this: Electricity as source instead of gasoline gives you a price decrease of 30%. Less maintenance because of less mechanics on top. Think of noise reduction, smell reduction, air betterment....

In China they just do it. Why wait here and keep the things 19th century like? Start with this island, here you have the tourist will-love-it-payback too. And in 2015 behind the bridges only electric vehicles. If you want, you can do it.

Posted by Lena on October 9, 2010 16:52


@editor: You know the solution already. You proposed it. Make it one entity to govern, tough regulations for Krabi and Phang Nga and the islands and less regulations for Phuket.

Then elect or nominate the governor for four years, fat paycheck, and keep him in check/frightened by harsh fraud policies, that two federal agencies have to enforce separately and in competition with each other. Both do open a snitch protection program, as every one has a cellphone with video/audio recording abilities nowadays, and pay for snitches aka whistle blowers dearly.

Posted by Lena on October 9, 2010 17:02

Editor Comment:

Now that's an idea . . .


@ Lena.
Good answer but you did not answer my question. You say people can re-charge their batteries at home or at an exchange station. Right now where will the electricity come from? We have power stations that feed Phuket, only one working wind generator, while China has 11 working nuclear reactors, to supply electric power to the people.
So where is Phuket getting this electricity from, we would like to know? Sea surf generators, wind turbines or nuclear power?
Do you have an answer for us? Over to you.

Posted by Robin on October 9, 2010 22:50


Dear Editor,

I can relate to your sentiment much better than you probably can imagine. I used to run the largest chat site in my home country and the feedback you get from teenagers is by no means subtle.

Sure it sometimes got to me and though it should not have, it occasionally went public but as a rule of thumb we never engaged in arguments with the users and simply implemented the rules that were there for everyone to see.
It was important for us to keep the climate civil and pleasing for the users.

We all needed a lot of patience and none of us got paid a dime. The chat site was a promotional aid for a radio station, which in return then reaped in higher advertising revenues.

To answer your questions

Yes, I'd rather not know (I'm sure you'd rather not get them either) of the abusive comments that keep pouring in and yes I'd enjoy reading what you report more if there was not this constant bickering.

Yes, it is for you to decide, not me. I enjoy a free service and cannot make any demands. I just tried to express my opinion in the hope that it might count.

You are not obliged to do anything but it would be nice to see the editor rise above the abuse and react in a more mature way.

Posted by Peter C on October 10, 2010 01:03

Editor Comment:

Peter, thanks for your thoughts. We certainly value an informed opinion.

Always happy to engage in a conversation, which is one of the points of difference between phuketwan and a promotional chat aid to a radio station.

Reaping advertising revenues is not our prime objective, although it would certainly be nice.

Reporting Phuket and the region is what we do - readers can decide for themselves whether we do it well or not.

Rules? Rules are not part of the equation.

If we followed everyone else's example for the sake of convention or civility, or accepted that because an organisation is large, it must be right, we would be a much less forthright site.

There are certainly people who agree with you: and there are others who prefer our way.

As for me, I think I am about as mature as i wish to be. Does maturity imply a tolerance for unreasonable criticism? Does no longer being a teenager mean you can't answer back?

I don't think so.

Inevitably, we will make a few errors of judgement. But we don't plan on changing our approach.


@Robin: to answer the question of where is my energy coming is easy. There is a box I plug in and it is working.

Ok. Do you know how much energy Phuket is consuming compared to 10 years ago? ... ? Where is that surge coming from? But of course you are right, there is also a problem behind, getting the dirty air of the street and to the gas or oil power stations is maybe a jump too short. Yes, built a nuclear power station or two, yes get some wind energy parks offshore and yes get less power consuming air-conditions running. That was the short version.

Used batteries can be recycled to a better and better degree. With the months, the technology of batteries is becoming better and better.

In Israel, Denmark and Ireland one company is already investing heavy in electro infrastructure for small cars and scooters. It is the until now most heavily risk funded company on earth. It is run by a former vice-president of SAP, age 37 or so.

In Germany even small Stadtwerke - town utilities - are experimenting with electro bicycles or electro scooters. There are plans to outlaw new motor scooter by 2015. The things are moving fast, even in Europe.

Will there be no problem? Of course there will. Always are. Will there be people who want to keep the good old horses, sure will. But again, for Phuket it is one golden opportunity to remodel its image for a century to come. If it is not beaten by some Malay island.

Just think about Patong with silent cars and tuk-tuks. Without the awful smell of exhaust pipes fumes. That will impress people from everywhere in the world, no matter if from Dubai, Sweden, Australia or Korea.

Posted by Lena on October 10, 2010 13:51


Thanks Lena for your answers.
Big problem with electric cars is that they cost double the amount of money to purchase, compared to their petrol guzzling counterparts of same engine size.
Now are you going to buy an 800,000.00 Baht petrol driven car, or you going to buy a 1,600,000.00 Baht electric car? Economics is a bu((#%, but you can't even get the locals to buy a 300.00 Baht helmet to put on their heads for motorcycling.
Guess cheap is here to stay, unless the government has subsidies to buy these vehicles.
Now LPG gas cars on the island are very low emissions contributors compared to electric cars and definitely petrol driven vehicles.
Diesel cars need regular tune ups to keep the injects clean, or the belch out think black toxic smoke.
Realistic thinking is required here. How about on a Monday, cars with number plates ending in an even number can enter Patong and Phuket, then on Tuesdays, only numberplates ending in odd numbers? Wow good idea, but just think of how many fake, ( read same same but different ) numberplates you would see on the same cars, taxis and tuk-tuks.
Nah, the idea is a dream, so dream on.

Posted by Robin on October 10, 2010 14:16

Editor Comment:

Robin, Locals are putting helmets on their heads in increasing numbers. Times change.


Robin, you are right again. Cars are today to expensive. But electro scooters are not. They are in fact in terms of TCO much cheaper. Put in also Tuk-tuks, as they are nothing more then uncomfortable golf carts, and we have a tremendous first step for Phuket.

Then wait two years, let the hybrid hype go by and the electro cars will come like a flood. And with the numbers also a lower price. I promise you, in 10 years Tesla will be the new Porsche, if my friends will not transform them fast.

Posted by Lena on October 10, 2010 14:41



Posted by Horse Doctor on October 13, 2010 09:46

Editor Comment:

Horse Doctor, Your last message said you were quitting commenting on Phuketwan, yet here you are again.

Let me help you keep your promise. At least you will have got it right for once.


You can insert your own wishes into my comments (or just outright lie) but I never flounce. I will continue to send comments and you can continue to censor or berate opinions you don't agree with. It is your site as you say and we all read it for free.

Posted by Horse Doctor on October 14, 2010 07:42

Editor Comment:

You never flounce, we never knowingly lie. Please lay off the gratuitous insults (your lies) and stick with principles and facts. Forgive me for not saying 'Welcome back.'

gravatar Phuket with electric cars and nuclear reactors gives me a similar impression as every time a new road are made and asphalted and at the same time planting trees in the park. Kinda plaster where its no wound! Wake up folks the destruction of Phuket is not reversible and will not end before its sunk, and no the Captain and crew will not go down with it, they already started over again on new natural land..

Editor, I guess your reply is something like the positives in Phuket far outweigh the negatives!

Well give me one example of what makes Phuket a better or more positive place today than 20 years ago! Has Phuket as a place to live or visit improved because of more shopping centres, wider bypass road, more friendly people, more foreign restaurants?
No editor the opposite have happened and it has nothing to do with either progress or development. Plain chaotic destruction of once natural beauty and all because of greed and no care.

Posted by Karl on October 14, 2010 21:02

Editor Comment:

Guess as you please, Karl.


Interesting comments hydrogen is a much better fuel than electric for cars. As for everything else yes its getting bigger and spreading out as that is progress. Things could be run smoother but it all depends on what the people want and are willing to pressure for.

Posted by Capt Canada on October 17, 2010 02:35


You know everything changes, that is the only thing that is for sure in life. People come and they go.You can't blame people for wanting to make a living, thus Phuket and the surrounding areas will expand, as people and resources will go to were there is work.

Yes, it's important not to destroy the earth and each other. We are only the Care Takers and with that goes a great responsibility. Fighting with each other is not the way of a quiet heart.

If we want peace we must listen to each other and try and do whats best for us all, as we are all in the same boat, in case you had not noticed !

Posted by Capt Canada on October 17, 2010 15:44


[quote]Tipped to Smash All Records[/quote]
Says who? The general manager of the airport!

Perhaps you should ask TAT what they think - "Ooh, at least 30% increase!"

It's all BS, you know it, I know it, so why bother printing it?

Next year this story will be forgotten and the actual increase will not be making headlines.

Posted by Mike Boyd on October 22, 2010 11:13

Editor Comment:

Sorry Mike, the AoT keeps an accurate record of arrivals and departures. We see the figures. If in doubt, though, you can go to the airport and check the count. The only BS is coming from your end.


The problem with Phuket is that there is not enough beach area for all people during high season, last high season even Nai Harn was full at 11am. And the Russians, too many of them.

Posted by jojo on October 23, 2010 22:50

Monday July 6, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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