“Right now we are seeing an average hotel occupancy of 72% from the more than 53,000 rooms [officially recognised] available in Phuket,” said Anoma Vongyai, Director of Tourism authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office.
“That number is expected to rise during October because of the festival, government holiday, Chinese National Day and school holidays,” she added.
“The booking rate along street procession routes in Phuket Town during the last three days of the festival is already at about 90%, which means we will have more than 270,000 people travelling to Phuket and generating about B3.4 billion for tourism (during the festival),” Ms Anoma pointed out.
The nine-day annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival, which began on Saturday (Oct 1), this year has so far attracted large numbers of tourists from China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Russia India and Middle Eastern countries, Ms Anoma said.
“Tourism this time of the year is robust and alive. We will see many tourists from all over the world, especially Chinese tourists, which lately have begun to increase after the number of arrivals fell about 15-20% over the past two months,” she added.
The number of Chinese tourist arrivals plunged after officials launched a blitz on “zero-dollar” tour companies operating in Thailand. (See story here.)
In light in the healthy resurgence in the number of tourists to Phuket, Ms Anoma noted that many areas away from Phuket Town, where most of the Vegetarian Festival ceremonies will take place, will also benefit.
“Tourists who come during the festival will spread out across the island. Some will stay in accommodations along Phuket beaches while others will stay in Phuket Town,” she said.
“We will also see a rising number of wealthy Chinese tourists arrive as free independent travellers (FITs) group. These tourists prefer to stay at pool villas or near beaches,” Ms Anoma added.
Bhuritt Maswongssa, who heads the Phuket chapter of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), noted the boost in the number of flights arriving in Phuket for the festival.
“We normally have 230 flights a day, but that has risen to 262 flights bringing people here each day,” he said.
“The holiday season for the Chinese, the hot seasonal hot weather in Middle East and in India, the security issue for Australians, all are reasons why tourists are coming here – but the most important factor of all right now is because it is during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, so we have a lot people coming in to join the festival,” he said.
Meanwhile, economic think-tank Kasikorn Research Centre (KResearch) projects that restaurants in Bangkok will see turnover of perhaps B2.3 billion, equivalent to 5% growth year-on-year during the Vegetarian Festival in the capital, also being held on Oct 1-9.
It also forecasts that younger residents are now taking an interest in the festival. (See report here.)