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Looking to India for relief: Growth in Indian tourist arrivals may alleviate COVID-19 fallout

Looking to India for relief: Growth in Indian tourist arrivals may alleviate COVID-19 fallout

PHUKET: With the number of Chinese tourists coming to Phuket declining rapidly, increasing numbers of Indian tourists are set to be a boon for the island’s tourism sector, Gulu Lalvani, CEO and Founder of Royal Phuket Marina, has pointed out.

tourismChineseIndianCoronavirusCOVID-19
By The Phuket News

Thursday 27 February 2020, 09:49AM


The number of Indian tourists to Phuket can help balance the decreasing numbers of Chinese tourists in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, says Royal Phuket Marina CEO and Founder Gulu Lalvani. Photo: AoT Phuket

The number of Indian tourists to Phuket can help balance the decreasing numbers of Chinese tourists in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, says Royal Phuket Marina CEO and Founder Gulu Lalvani. Photo: AoT Phuket

The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates that nearly 2 million Indians visited Thailand in 2019, which marks a 24.85% increase over 2018 figures, Mr Lalvani recently explained to The Phuket News.

“The strong Thai baht, and many other outside factors, including the US-China trade war and the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus have led to a decrease in Thailand’s overall tourism numbers, with the number of Chinese tourists taking a particularly big hit. Indian numbers, however, continue to grow,” Mr Lalvani said.

“This surge of Indian tourists has been of particular help to Phuket. Indian arrivals to Phuket in 2019 grew year-over-year by 298%, due largely to the launch of GoAir direct flights from Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai in October 2018,” he added.

According to a January 2020 report from C9 Hotelworks, total year-on-year arrivals to Phuket in 2019 declined by 4% in Q1 and 7% in Q2. The numbers of travellers from Europe and Australia shrank, while Chinese arrivals declined year-over-year by 9%.

“However, passenger arrivals balanced out over the third and fourth quarters of 2019 – growing by 3% and 8% respectively. This resurgence of tourism numbers was buoyed by growing demand from the Asian markets of Malaysia, Singapore and, most notably, India,” Mr Lalvani said.

Middle-class Indian tourists have been providing a much-needed boost for Phuket’s mid-range resorts and Food & Beverage outlets, Mr Lalvani added.

Wealthier Indian travellers have been flocking to Phuket for weddings, incentive trips, and high-end events, such as the Thailand Yacht Show, which was held this year at Royal Phuket Marina on Jan 9-12. Over the course of the four-day event, many Indian attendees bought boats, taking advantage of Thailand’s 0% tax on the purchase of yachts, Mr Lalvani noted.

“India has a population of over 1.3 billion people and will soon surpass China as the most populous country on Earth. As their economic power rises, more and more Indians are developing an appetite for international travel,” said Mr Lalvani.

“With its pristine nature and wide range of accommodations and restaurants, Phuket is an ideal destination for Indians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of their crowded cities,” he added.

Mr Lalvani, who himself has Indian origins, has seen Indian travellers help to stabilise Phuket’s tourism numbers before. After the Phoenix boat tragedy in 2018, Phuket saw the worst decline in tourist arrivals since the 2004 tsunami.

Mr Lalvani convinced his friend Jeh Wadia, Managing Director of GoAir to launch three direct flights from India to Phuket in October of 2018.

“These direct flights were instrumental in boosting tourist numbers after the shortfall of Chinese tourists from 2018 until now,” Mr Lalvani said.

Already this year, Mr Lalvani is in discussion with Mr Wadia to launch another seven direct flights from India to Phuket to support Phuket tourism during the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the island’s tourism industry.

“If these new seven flights can happen, Phuket will be able to welcome more Indian tourists and relief from the shortage of tourists this year which will help overall Phuket and Thailand economically in 2020,” Mr Lalvani explained.

“Indians used to be 15th in arrival numbers to Phuket. By the end of 2019, they rose to third, behind only China and Russia,” he said.

“I have no doubt that they will be first in the near future. Phuket is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading lifestyle destinations and Indian tourists have been, and will continue to be, a huge part of the island’s success.”

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Sandbar | 28 February 2020 - 05:35:01

I have always found Indian people to be polite, good humored and family orientated. They are also quite independent travlers, where the Chinese tourists rely more on packaged tours, stay at designated resort/resorts all  meals included, tours included! Not good for local bussiness owners! 

 

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