PHUKET: More Australians may stay home and not take holidays on Phuket if the dramatic drop in the $A today sets the pattern for lower levels.
One of Australia's leading newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald, reported: ''The days of cheap overseas travel and attractive online prices are over, leading economists say.
''With the Australian dollar falling to a 33-month low on Thursday, travel and online retail prices are expected to soar immediately.''
This means that many Australians who were planning to holiday on Phuket or in Thailand, will seek a better deal for their devalued $A elsewhere.
The sudden drop in the value of the $A combined with rising prices on Phuket and the extortionate fares of tuk-tuk and taxi drivers make Phuket less attractive.
One expert predicted travel expenses for Australians heading overseas to rise by 10 percent: ''Travel is the most instantaneous thing to go up.''
The Australian dollar has already lost more than 10 percent of its value against the US dollar since early May, when it was trading at 103 US cents. Today it's around 92 cents.
Australians have a growing fondness for Phuket, being the first nationality to provide help and to return as tourists to Phuket after the 2004 tsunami.
Since then, the number of Australian visitors has continued to grow steadily before being overtaken recently by Chinese, with Russian numbers also growing fast.
Phuket tourism relies on diversity and a commitment to tourists from any one country usually is viewed as a bad sign. It means that if that country's economy sours, Phuket also suffers.
Beyond the debate about the need for ''quality'' tourists the beauty of the Phuket travel market has been its ability to attract visitors from many sources, offering increasing stability.
Whether Phuket can continue to grow rapidly without damaging its beaches and coral reefs - and its enduring appeal - raises the key issue of sustainability.