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Suddenly the tourist invasion of Phuket slows

Phuket Tourist Numbers Drop: Downturn Feared

Friday, July 4, 2008
EXCLUSIVE
LATEST tourist accommodation figures from the TAT sound a loud alarm about a possible downturn in Phuket's economy.

Added to long-haul flight uncertainty and anecdotal evidence that property sales have fallen dramatically, the new figures indicate that the island may be in for its toughest time since post-tsunami 2005.

Phuketwan's small survey of resorts around the region recently showed a general optimism that is not reflected in the latest TAT figures for January-March 2008.

More resorts questioned about the future by Phuketwan as recently as July 3 remained positive. Yet the January-March figures, along with rising oil prices, indicate a bleak low season.

Thai and overseas visitors staying in Phuket resorts and guesthouses in the first three months of the year totaled 784,831.

This compares with 945,327 in the same period of 2007 and 901,322 in 2006, and amounts to a drop of 15.92 percent.

Any hope of reaching a figure in 2008 to rival the total of 5,005,653 for 2007 seems to have already disappeared. The total for 2007 was 11.25 percent up on the previous year.

Given that the Beijing Olympics are likely to keep many people at home in China or elsewhere watching the world's premier sporting event for two weeks in August, the low season is likely to dip still lower.

Maitree Narukatpichai, president of the Phuket Tourism Association, warned that pressures on airline fuel prices were beyond control and would inevitably affect Phuket this year.

He said further cuts to long-haul flights on top of Thai Airways canceling its New York service could bring a 20 percent drop to visitors to the island this year.

Suwalai Pinpradab, TAT regional director, told Phuketwan that the TAT now has to try to attract visitors from closer destinations around Asia because short-haul traffic was not being affected so dramatically.

She was hoping to achieve a 10 percent increase in visitors from nearby countries, including Singapore and Japan, India and the Middle East.

The Mercure Hotel in Patong, which opened last year, reported an occupancy rate of 70 percent in June. Director of Sales, Sorawish Bunrathirun, said bookings from Europe for next high season were slow.

It was difficult to speculate about the future of long-haul flights. Most low-season guests were from Asia, notably India, and Australia, Khun Sorawish said.

Pattiya Kinchaeam, Destination Manager at The Royal Phuket Yacht Club a Puravarna Resort, told Phuketwan there had been no effect on the resort yet because most guests were from the US, with others from India, Korea and Singapore.

The occupancy rate is at 20 percent. More visitors are expected from Japan later this low season because of direct flights.

Even Thais did not travel in great numbers to Phuket in the first three months of 2008, their total falling from 241,498 in 2007 to 194,549 this year.

Last year was 7.48 percent down on the 2006 tortal of 261,016.

Visitors from some nations increased this year against the general trend. Swedes have topped the list in early 2006 and 2007 and rose again this year from 77,012 to 82,118.

But visitors from Britain, where housing prices are in decline, fell dramatically from 55,593 last year to 29,471 this year.

In the other country most obviously suffering economic turmoil, US visitors dropped from 18,798 to 11,298. A total of 23,150 Americans visited in the first three months of 2006.

Australia, less troubled by long-haul price rises and third top on the list in the first three months of 2007, slipped only slightly from 52,129 to 50,273.

But Russians, significantly up for the whole of 2007, fell from 49,234 for the first three months of 2007 to 39,071 this year. Japanese numbers were cut in half, from 22,452 to 11,529.

China fell from 49,022 to 36,704. Taiwan continued to slide from large pre-tsunami numbers, dropping from 11,721 to 7,085. Korean numbers held at 32,856, a long way below the 2006 figure of 64,110.

Only 30,781 Germans made the journey in 2008 compared to 44,642 in 2007.

Against this trend, Finns rose from 37,125 to 45,462. Numbers from Norway were also up, from 16,432 to 20,741, about the same number who came in the first three months of 2006.

Hong Kong visitors were also up, from 11,517 to 16,305.

While numbers from France fells marginally to 22,617, Italians dropped from 23,678 to 15,382. Danes moved up several hundred to 23,474. Dutch visitors also moved up a little to 7543.

Swiss visitors declined from 23,079 to 14,830. Austrians declined from 10,786 to 5,738.

Related Articles:

Direct Flights From Japan Boost Phuket

Andaman Resorts Predict Good Times: Survey

Look for more of the latest about resorts in the region at Phuketwan

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