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Phuket struggles to attract tourists in 2023 low season

Kata Beach Phuket
A quiet Kata Beach on June 16 at 1pm.

“He said there’s been a noticeable decline in tourist numbers, as evidenced by hotel reservation rates of only 40-50% from both domestic and foreign visitors.”

The Phuket Tourist Association is putting together proposals to the new government (whoever that may be), aiming to revitalise the island’s tourism economy and restore the impressive 400 billion baht in income it reached back in pre-Covid 2019.

In a Bangkok Post article, PTA president Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, emphasised the importance of tourism as one of the island’s key economic drivers, alongside exports.

“The new government should prioritise tourism policies across all sectors by collaborating with organisations such as the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Culture Ministry, and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau.”

He stressed the need for tools and budget management to enhance Phuket and Thailand’s competitive edge, as many countries rely on tourism to attract international visitors.

“Our goal is to have public sector policies that support potential tourism entrepreneurs, including the implementation of ‘one-stop service’ certificates for various activities, including on-field seminars.”

The PTA is also proposing air travel-friendly policies, including expanding flight routes, destinations and seating capacity.

Thaneth expressed concerns about the strength of Thailand’s national carriers in the global market, particularly when compared to international airlines. Thai Airways, for example, has reduced the number of direct flights from 14 per week during the government’s Sandbox project (which started in July 2021), to very few, or none, in recent weeks.

“This decline is disheartening, especially when carriers from smaller countries like Kazakhstan, Israel and Mongolia continue to operate flights to Phuket.”

Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Thaneth also discussed the current tourism situation on the island, which has entered the low season for 2023. He said there’s been a noticeable decline in tourist numbers, as evidenced by hotel reservation rates of only 40-50% from both domestic and foreign visitors. And that estimate is only in the busier areas of the island. In other locations around Phuket the occupancy rates were even lower.

The number of arrivals and hotel bookings has dropped by more than half over the past two months. This chart is published by Phuket Immigration (for May). It shows a marked drop off of Russian arrivals and steep drop of overall arrivals onto the island.

“The onset of the new school year contributed to this downturn, while domestic issues in countries such as China and India are affecting the arrival of these key tourist groups.”

Despite these challenges, Phuket is planning a series of upcoming events to attract visitors, including surfing competitions in Kata and Karon which will be held next month, the most popular time for reliable surfing conditions along Phuket’s west coast

Addressing the island’s infrastructure development, Thaneth stressed the urgent need for improvements, particularly in road transport and public transport options.

Phuket’s current transportation system, with only one main road from north to south, is inadequate for the growing demand. He also acknowledged persistent issues with public transport and local taxi drivers, even though the island welcomed around 10 million tourists in 2019.

Thaneth also highlighted that Phuket’s problems extend beyond the island’s boundaries, citing weakness in the global economy and expensive long-haul flights.

The PTA is eagerly awaiting discussions with the island’s new elected Members of Parliament (all from the Move Forward Party), who will meet with the new prime minister to deliberate on the tourism policy (a new Thai PM and government should be clarified in late July or August).

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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