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Going Down: Businesses on Phuket’s famed Bangla Rd suffer as clientele dries up

PHUKET: The island’s top nightlife drawcard Bangla Rd in Patong is taking a battering in business this tourism high season despite officials reporting record numbers of tourist arrivals.

patong, tourism, Chinese,

Tanyaluk Sakoot

Saturday 23 January 2016, 09:00AM

Bars along Phuket's famed Bangla Rd in Patong are suffering hard as the regular tourist clientele source markets are drying up. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot
Bars along Phuket's famed Bangla Rd in Patong are suffering hard as the regular tourist clientele source markets are drying up. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Sompoch Sukkaew, chief legal counsel of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA), says that entertainment businesses in the area are suffering hard.

“Over the past three years, most bars were averaging about B90,000 revenue per day at this time of year,” he said. “Now they’re making just B40,000.

“Small bars in small streets off Bangla Rd used to average B40,000 to B50,000 a day, now they’re down to just B10,000 a day.”

Live music venues were suffering worse. “They used to average about B360,000 as day during the peak season, but now they’re making just B60,000 to B90,0000 per day,” Mr Somphoch said.

“In total, PEBA members generated about B1.5 million per day during the peak season. Now it’s down to about B540,000 per day,” he added.

Mr Somphoch noted that PEBA members account for 500 businesses in Patong, with at least 200 businesses in the Bangla Rd entertainment zone.

“Small businesses are suffering the worst,” said PEBA President Weerawit Kuresombat. “Bigger businesses are doing okay, but many businesses elsewhere in the entertainment zone, including in the usually busy sidestreets – such as Soi Tiger, Soi Freedom, Soi Sea Dragon and Soi Crocodile – are hurting.

“Many of these will close down soon,” he foretold.

Mr Somphoch also painted a grim picture for the immediate future of small nightlife businesses in the entertainment district.

“More than 40 bars in the entertainment zone will close down after this high season,” he said.

The plunge in Bangla trade is being felt elsewhere throughout the resort town as the knock-on effect spreads, affecting many other tourist-dependent businesses, Mr Weerawit added.

“All businesses are affected by this, like a network. It is also affecting motorbike rentals, small shops, restaurants and even hotels,” he said.

The huge shift in recent years for Phuket’s tourism industry to rely on Chinese arrivals tourists played a critical role in the current situation, Mr Weerawit noted.

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“Chinese tourists are the top tourist arrival market in Phuket, and although we have huge numbers of Chinese coming here, most of them come on complete tour packages,” he said.

“This means they spend very little on extras beyond the package they bought. They rarely venture out for the nightlife or even visit independent restaurants. They just don’t spend much.

“Also, European tourists now only come to Phuket for short-term stays and today it is much more competitive for Phuket to attract international arrivals. There are many options for tourists to choose from, not just Phuket.”

A lack of comprehensive marketing strategy in attracting tourists is leaving many smaller businesses excluded from reaping the benefits from the surge in Chinese arrivals, Mr Weerawit added.

“We need a much improved plan to better promote the Phuket as a tourism destination,’ he said.

Mr Somphoch agreed. “This is having a huge effect. We have tried several different strategies to attract more tourists to enjoy our members’ services to improve the economic situation, but they have all failed,” he said.

Extended trading hours for nightlife businesses in the entertainment zone would help alleviate the economic pressure on small businesses, said both Mr Weerawit and Mr Somphot.

“Phuket attracts different types of tourists now, and the revenue generated by the entertainment industry is less than in past years,” Mr Weerawit said.

“If the government recognises this and extends the trading hours and expands the entertainment zones, Phuket can maintain its recipe for success.”

Mr Somphoch noted that the PEBA is still waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Interior about their request to extend trading hours and expand the entertainment zone in Patong.

“We also held a public hearing and appealed to the Phuket provincial officials at the end of 2015,” he said. “We still hope that officials will recognise the reality in Patong. It should be a special zone.

“Phuket can be better than now, and all we are asking for is to at least extend the trading hours in the Patong entertainment zone to 4am.

“All I can say about this is that it’s ‘about time’.”



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yvonne | 23 August 2017 - 19:46:46

Phuket has lost it's Good Tourists !Especially  Individual Tourists and small Groups of family or friends. NOW Phuket
shot itself in the foot with HUGE Groups of RUDE Cheap Package Tour Groups from certain Countries who spend very little on other amenities or services. They storm the Buffet Breakfasts, shove and push,load their plates(two plates per person is not unusual believe me!)eat like ...

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malczx7r | 23 August 2017 - 10:07:46

I don't go to Patong, i went once when i came her 5 years ago, but because of the greedy mindset of the Thias who want to cream as much money as they can they are shooting themselves in the foot! Drinks, more expensive than London, taxi's same as London! People used to come to Asia for cheap holidays, if they keep this greed mindset up it will soon be gone.  My American friend and his Thai...

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Franz977 | 22 August 2017 - 19:39:28

I've been in Patong already a few time. Since my first arrival, back in 2007, I've seen the town rise (a bit) and then going down this downfall. Price rose, crooks grew, tourists changed. The most recent time I was there in November 2016. Let me say, it was the worst time. Most of the bars in the side sois were dead empty and with unreasonably high prices. It looks like the board is accusi...

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TTT Tony The Tiger | 29 January 2016 - 09:57:01

Mr. Somphock is the Chief Legal Counsel for PEBA.  What in the world is he doing defining the reasons for the reduced flow of income as something so selfish as extending the trade hours to 4:00AM and expanding the "entertainment" zone.

One only needs to read the many comments to this article in your paper to realize what needs to be done.  Reading slightly between the lines, you will ...

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Mad Laamont | 25 January 2016 - 15:12:08

A lot of people seem to be blaming the bars for increased prices however this is not a result of greedy bar owners, it's a result of greedy landlords. This key money (scam) means you have to buy your business every 3 years.  With landlords charging big money for business and rents, the only way a small business owner can make money is to increase prices to cover the costs.  People are right wi...

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phil_p | 25 January 2016 - 14:47:24

This year i speak only 30% of my nightlife budget because i could not find interesting ladies ( sexy and good attitude ) 8 years ago , no matter where i did go , i could find at least one. Now it has become a job. I dont play anymore. Farewell Thailand

The Phuket News | 25 January 2016 - 08:51:58

The main reason is the Thailand has become very expensive and the land of smiles is not what you think the smiles are for the reasons we all no ?

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BigA | 25 January 2016 - 07:24:21

I am glad to be a sailor,that's why I stay on Phuket for 25 years now!I had a bar at Soi crocodile in the 90is all the Lady's I can think of,now I do more sailing and less Lady's.Feel sorry for you guy's nothing else to do as bars,no beach chairs ,umbrellas have to walk from the beach to get a beer!Sad, really sad!I feel sorry for you all!I hope you all go to Vietnam!or somewhere e...

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LES | 25 January 2016 - 02:04:01

Quality tourists go to quality resorts but Phuket has such a bad reputation from the minute you arrive, the taxis try to over charge at the airport. No proper public transport,cant sit on the beach for fear of breaking the ever changing rules, dirty water being washed into the sea, jet ski/tuk tuk mafia, over priced drinks, why on earth would anyone want to return on these terms, endemic corruptio...

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Thighlander | 24 January 2016 - 21:14:27

the places with the high rent, high land values have been beaten into the ground.  The landlords are of no help.  Most of the properties would be worth more without the structures on them.  Same thing happened on Sukhumvit...most of the things that made it famous are now long gone.

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