CHINA and Russia are emerging as source markets for Phuket, which has seen growth in the number of visitors from these countries.
Phuket is now the second-most popular destination for Russian tourists after Pattaya, according to Visanu Jaroensilp, director–the Americas marketing division of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who was handling the Russian market until a month ago.
He said: “The Russian market has seen exponential growth since 2008 when TAT set up an office in Moscow. Russian outbound has climbed from 280,000 in 2008 to one million in 2011. Of these, about 20 per cent would visit Phuket.”
Testifying to the popularity of Phuket is Liudmila Baranskaya, general manager of Milor Tour Russia. The island has risen to be among “one of the main destinations in Thailand” her clients are interested in, owing to an increase in flights.
At the same time, Phuket is seeing stellar growth from another market – China. Asian Trails, strong in the Europe market, launched a Chinese department three months ago to capture the large chunk of upmarket FITs, said deputy managing director Claudio Kellenberger.
Centara Hotels & Resorts corporate director of sales, Krosakorn Rokrungroj, also observed that China has been making steady inroads into Phuket. For instance, since taking over the management of Centara Grand West Sands Resort and Villas in Phuket last year, the resort has recorded high interest among the Chinese, particularly families who are drawn to the water park.
Amnuay Thiamkeerakul, TAT’s director-East Asia marketing division, said Chinese arrivals had been increasing at an average of 50 per cent each year.
However, some tour operators expressed concerns that existing markets were being squeezed out.
Asian Trails’ Kellenberger remarked: “With more Russians, the Scandinavian market is now shifting to smaller destinations like Koh Lanta and Krabi.”
Go Thailand Tours managing director, Raimund Wellenhofer, added that some suppliers have also shown preference for the Russians, making it harder for him to secure rooms for his European clients during the high season.