PHUKET: Astonishing statistics continue to fly about Phuket's tourism surge. International passengers to Phuket in May jumped by an amazing 43.26 percent year-on-year.
May is a cusp month and the delivery of 807,830 arrivals and departures through Phuket International Airport keeps the outlook hugely promising.
With domestic traffic up 13.96 percent (which seems almost horrible compared to the international surge) May's overall jump was 28.14 percent.
Yet again, overseas direct flight passengers at 436,965 rolled the domestic tally of 325,422, making the point that Phuket is now an international Thai destination, no longer a Thai international one.
To June 1, Phuket has recorded 4,876,467 arrivals and departures so far this year through the little airport that could.
Phuket's dramatic acceleration in tourist numbers continues to float the big balloon with the question mark on its side: how many tourists can Phuket sustain?
But before that question can be answered, we really need to know how many overseas tourists are actually coming.
By our best calculations, Phuket is heading to tally 2.8 million overseas tourists this year, a little behind Bali, which seems logical to us.
But an article yesterday in tourism site ttrweekly.com quotes Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket office director, Chanchai Duangchit, as saying ''there are 11 million international travellers visiting the island who generate around Bt200 million in economic circulation.''
We think it's either a serious misprint that needs to be corrected . . .
. . . or hundreds of thousands of arrivals are doing what French couple Elodie Triche, Damien Della Libera and daughter Oxanna did during May: taking the wrong turn inside Phuket airport, picking up their bags and going through the exit without being recorded in the airport's statistics.
As an aside, we wonder whether the French trio and the others who took the wrong turn off that controversial Qatar flight were ever actually counted in the statistics.
But that's less of a concern than actually getting the total number right.
A false figure of 11 million arrivals - when the real figure is under three million - encourages investment in resorts and property on the false premise that Phuket's tourist population is almost four times bigger than it really is.
These exaggerated numbers have been bandied about for months, triggering too many unrealistic expectations. Beach parties for 50,000, for example.
Once the TAT or the Ministry for Tourism and Sport has supplied some believable figures, then Phuket can set about answering the really big question:
How many tourists can Phuket sustain without destroying itself?
Once that big question has an answer, Phuket's authorities can set about fixing all the island's issues to make Phuket a great place to live - and to visit.