Changes in the mix of visitors to Phuket is reshaping the tourism landscape from a beach getaway to an “urban holiday destination”, according to C9 Hotelworks.
Phuket saw a 19 per cent year-on-year increase in passenger arrivals through its newly expanded international airport in the first four months of the year, with growth led by the mainland China market, which registered a 50 per cent year-on-year increase, followed by Russia at 47 per cent.
The increase has been attributed to what C9 refers to as “supercharged airlift”, with 23 new routes added to Phuket in May alone, 19 of which were from mainland China. Currently there are 33 cities in China that link to the destination.
C9 observed that a shift in geographic source markets over the past 10 years has brought with it rising demand for non-beach centric activities.
With the strong purchasing power of tourists, especially Chinese, Russians and Australians, more retail and tourism attractions are developing on the island. Resort-oriented retail is a rising force, with C9 data showing nearly 200,000m2 of Grade A net lettable area in the pipeline.
The mix of retail and tourism is most evident in the growth belt from Kathu to Patong, C9 stated.
Themed tourism attractions are also springing up in Phuket, including Vana Nava Water Park, Blue Tree Water and Entertainment Park, and Aquaria at the new Central Festival mall extension.
The changing mix of visitors is also reflected in the island’s hotel performance, with STR reporting that in 2018 upper midscale hotels have shown the highest demand growth of 10 per cent compared to the same period last year.
In the hotel sector, Phuket has a total of 1,744 tourist accommodation establishments with 84,427 keys as of 1Q2018. There are 36 new hotels in the pipeline with 27 properties affiliated with international hotel brands. Ten upcoming mixed-use properties will have hotel residences component, which accounts for 28 per cent of total incoming supply.
Projected to further fuel tourism diversification are plans for a second international airport to be added to the Greater Phuket region, with the Airports of Thailand set to invest an estimated US$1.8 billion in an airport just over the Sarasin Bridge in Phang Nga’s Khok Kloi area
Dubbing the second airport “a logical move”, as the current Phuket airport is already straining despite the addition of a new terminal last year. C9 expects the latest infrastructural development to create a broader Greater Phuket Tourism Triangle that includes Phang Nga Bay and the prime West Coast beach strip from Natai to Thai Muang on the mainland.
Work on the airport is reportedly set to start in 2019 and complete by 2025.