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A new airport would revolutionise Andaman tourism

Trends: New Airport to Spark Tourism Revolution

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
WORD has reached Phuketwan that a new airport for Phang Nga is being planned. It is now subject to an environmental study.

A final decision on the 800-million-baht-plus project rests with the Department of Civil Aviation, with the total cost uncertain.

The local provincial government has already canvassed public opinion in the area and won 90 percent approval for its plans.

Construction could start as early as 2009.

Talk of the new airport was at its strongest this week when a Phuketwan reporting team visited Koh Kor Kao, the large island off the fishing village of Nam Khem.

The island is where such a facility is likely to be built. Koh Kor Kao is already home to an airfield, built at Baan Nok Na by the Japanese during World War II.

The area covers 455 rai and the tarmac could run to 1800 metres in length.

It would be capable of taking aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737.

Budget airlines and private aircraft were likely to find the Phang Nga option appealing, one local provincial official said.

A new airport, built to international standards and where jets could land, would revolutionise the tourism industry along the Andaman coast.

There is also talk of a bridge being built to the island, linking it to Takuapa, the local provincial Andaman district capital.

The main coast road runs north to Ranong and south to Phuket from Takuapa.

Similarities between the island and Phuket as it was 30 years ago are striking.

With Phuket International Airport struggling to cope with increasing tourist traffic, a new airport in Phang Nga would provide a long-term option.

Koh Kor Kao already has several isolated resorts along its western coast, and the beaches are regarded as the equal of those on Phuket.

An airport on the island would open up the entire coast of Phang Nga to tourism, triggering development of the northern sector, which is currently balancing its natural attractions with eco-tourism.

An airport would also bring a boom for Khao Lak, the centre of the current tourist industry in Phang Nga, where about 5000 rooms will be available by next high season.

Virtually all of the resorts along the coast that were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami have reopened or are in the process of being rebuilt.

With all-new resorts and an all-new airport as well, the area would have instant appeal to international tourism.

Phang Nga, with the splendid coral reefs of the Similans and the natural beauty of the Mergui Archipelago off Burma within easy reach, would eventually replace Phuket as the centre for diving off the Andaman coast.

The province also has stunning natural beauty and many waterfalls inland.

From an airport on Koh Kor Kao, the journey by road to resorts such as the award-winning Le Meridien Khao Lak, the Sarojin on Cape Pakarang, the nearby Apsara and the soon-to-reopen South Sea Pakarang would be reduced by half.

A little further south, the Sofitel is being rebuilt and rebranded as a Kempinski.

The premium Singapore-based Raffles brand has land in the region, although its plans have not been formally disclosed.

A boom could be expected almost immediately in real estate, too.

At present, the northern Andaman coastal stretch from Kuraburi into Ranong and up to the border with Burma is undeveloped.

As Phuketwan reported exclusively, late last year Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li purchased a large tract of land around the golf course in Thai Muang, a relatively quiet southern township, for more than two billion baht.

His plans for redevelopment are thought to include a resort and a marina.

An official with the Department of Civil Aviation said the environmental study on the island airport was likely to take a month or two to resolve.

Then the future of the development would rest solely on projected costs of essential improvements, including roads and bridges.

Ferries now link the island to the mainland.

Look for TRENDS regularly at Phuketwan

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Wednesday February 21, 2024
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