Limited accessibility hinders Koh Chang’s tourism growth: C9

Koh Chang, one of the largest Thai islands in the Gulf of Thailand, still remains largely under tourists' radar

Despite being one of the country’s biggest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang has remained somewhat off the mass tourism development footprint due to limited accessibility, finds a recent C9 Hotelworks’ report.

The Koh Chang Tourism Market Review stated that in 2018, the island’s hotel market hosted 1.2 million guest arrivals at 272 tourism establishments with a combined total of 7,617 rooms. Over the past decade, domestic travellers accounted for between 59 per cent to 71 per cent of total room night demand.

Koh Chang (pictured), one of the largest Thai islands in the Gulf of Thailand, still remains largely under tourists’ radar

Market-wide hotel occupancy teeters between the mid to high 60’s, though the off-season often sees numbers drop by half. In a nutshell, it’s a very wide swing between high and low seasons, said the report.

C9 Hotelworks’ managing director Bill Barnett said: “The island is heavily reliant on domestic tourism due to limited international accessibility when compared to other popular Thai beach destinations such as Phuket and Samui.”

Among overseas source markets, mainland China has been the fastest-growing over the past few years, with year-on-year growth totalling 54 per cent in 2017. The other top five international markets are Germany, Russia, Sweden and the UK.

The average length of stay for tourists is 2.9 nights, with foreign and domestic demand averaging 4.6 and 2.6 nights respectively. Long-stay overseas travellers often reside up to two months.

However, the C9 report highlights that the biggest barrier to entry for new, larger hotels remains the lack of direct airlift and dependence on the privately operated Trat airport. Owned by Bangkok Airways, the region’s booming LCCs do not fly to the destination and most visitors come overland from Bangkok and then by ferry.

Based on C9’s recent visits to the island, Barnett expects that a clear uptick in new development for larger hotels and brands will start to appear in the pipeline in the near future.

With The Emerald Cove Koh Chang expected to rebrand to an international group by 2020, recognisable hotel brands are expected to drive occupancy during low season periods.

“Koh Chang is not unlike Koh Tao and Koh Pha-ngan in that they are largely tropical outposts that are likely to be caught up in a broader wave of development for the simple fact they offer sun, sand, sea and sunshine,” Barnett added.

Construction of a new road at the southern tip of the island is currently under the government’s development plan, which will make the east coast more accessible, said the report.

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