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Sunrise for a new Similana, but some will be saddened

Similana Sold as Phang Nga Moves Upmarket

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
ONE OF the pioneer resorts on the Andaman Sea, the Similana, is to close at the end of the high season in preparation for a new owner and a makeover to a modern, upmarket destination.

While the current management at the resort is not willing to disclose the identity of the new owner, Phuketwan understands there's an English connection.

The present staff have already been told that their jobs will cease at the end of April.

For decades, dreamy-eyed Swedes and Germans especially have made the Similana their base for exploring the natural beauty of southern Phang Nga.

The 67 rooms at the Similana tumble down the side of a headland towards the sea, with bungalows on stilts scattered through the gardens below.

It's considered to be one of the most beautiful settings along the coast.

The Similana sits between two post-tsunami recovery resorts, the Sarojin, which reports 95 percent occupancy rates this high season, and Le Meridien Khao Lak.

Further south, restored hotels have mostly reopened and work is continuing on the shell of the large five-star Sofitel, which is being rebranded as a Kempinski.

According to Jittiporn Suttipaiboon, chief of the Phang Nga Tourism Association, the occupancy rate for the Khao Lak region this high season should average 75 to 80 percent.

While the total of 4000 rooms still has some way to go before reaching the pre-tsunami level of 6200 rooms, Khun Jittiporn predicts a stronger green season this year.

Last year's 25-30 percent average occupancy is expected to rise with Thais, Australians, New Zealanders and English among the new targets.

''When it rains the jungle is beautiful,'' she said.

''There is plenty to do, including bamboo rafting and trekking, and room rates are cheaper.

''Phang Nga is very lucky because we have both splendid beaches and islands, plus forests as well.''

She said there were encouraging signs from both agents and investors. ''Interest has exceeded our expectations,'' she said.

''We aim to conserve nature here but if the coast grows too fast, it may be difficult to get the balance right.

''So we have to ask ourselves, what do we want to be? Working together is very important.''

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