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Always pointing up, the traffic at Phuket International Airport

Passenger Surge Raises Issue of Sustainability

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

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.

Those who say there is no longer a low season on Phuket will be proved right if those kinds of figures keep coming through the green monsoon summer wet whatever period that links Phuket's high seasons.

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 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.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Khun Chanchai is counting both arrivals and departures to get his figure of 11 million. He's also including thai domestic flights.
Anybody can see that there's a savage Low Season right now, whatever TAT or the Ministry for Tourism says.
Quite why they choose to distort the figures is beyond me.

Posted by jimbo34 on June 18, 2013 10:41


the numbers here are large and the pressure on roads drains sewage and housing can be witnessed in the crowded streets over supply of dive shops and even crowded boat numbers sadly the pristine beaches and coral are giving way to serious degradation There is a rising community concern led by the council and community groups . Shangri-La is an outstanding example of good environment practice.Itis hoped that a co-ordinated community response can ensure economic development in a sound sustainable environment

Posted by peter harris on June 18, 2013 12:57


I do believe that every time a local expat does a visa run, upon their return they are classified as a visitor arrival. This may go some way to explaining the obvious distortion,

Posted by tom on June 18, 2013 15:05


@Jimbo34, I agree with you, this year particularly is a very low season for what has been the "traditional" Phuket tourists Europeans, Australians etal. However, as anyone who travels on the roads will know, the number of tourists arriving from new destinations, China, Korea, Russia etc have increased enormously. Please can someone tell me where they go, when they're not on a tour bus, because the restaurants and bars are certainly empty when compared to previous years.

Posted by Terry on June 18, 2013 20:37


I was a hotel manager in Phuket beginning in 2003. I started to record and collate official visitor numbers to Phuket from any source I could find to support our marketing strategy. However I gave up after about a year as the numbers cited were so different depending on where they came from.

Posted by Pando on June 19, 2013 03:12


just maybe it is possible that the authorities could attempt to solve some problems while they are waiting for answers to questions of "sustainability"?
Making a career out of reports,numbers, committees ad nauseam is not getting the baby bathed.....

Posted by david on June 19, 2013 11:36


theres hardly any of the usual auzzy and kiwis here this year.. the streets are dead .. so this proves its not correct.

Posted by poppops on June 19, 2013 13:11

Editor Comment:

Well, perhaps your survey is not quite foolproof. More Chinese and Russians may be coming, in place of the antipodeans.


Ed, I agree with you, as I said in my previous comment. But I really do wonder where these people when not on a tour bus. I think there is a significant increase in "the zero Baht" tourism, and a large majority of the businesses on the Island are missing the Europeans and the Antipodeans.

Posted by Terry on June 19, 2013 16:12


The figures are likely a invented ploy for more federal budget maybe it works?@Terry this is the fine A class quality upmarket tourists they want the ones that never leave the 5 star resorts
the small operations wont see much of them,the basic economic fact that money is like manure it must be spread around has never been grasped here so welcome the quality tourists!

Posted by slickmelb on June 25, 2013 18:01

Monday July 13, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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