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Phuket Opinion: Does Phuket need 14mn tourists?

Phuket Opinion: Does Phuket need 14mn tourists?

PHUKET: Assistant Professor Dr Chayanon Phucharoen, Deputy Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University (PSU) Phuket campus, this week asked the most pressing question currently facing Phuket: Does Phuket need 14mn tourists?

opiniontourismeconomicsChinese
By The Phuket News

Sunday 22 January 2023, 09:00AM


Chinese tourists arrive at Phuket International Airport. Photo: AoT Phuket

Chinese tourists arrive at Phuket International Airport. Photo: AoT Phuket

Dr Chayanon was speaking as special guest at the meeting of the Rotary Club of Patong Beach on Tuesday night (Jan 17). His presentation was very well received. His question was aimed squarely at the current push by national figures to quickly resume large numbers of tourists under the banner of “tourism recovery”.

Dr Chayanon, who holds a PhD in Economics from Chulalongkorn University, already has a reputation for voicing key concerns. In December 2019, he warned that Phuket was at the “tipping point” for the volume of tourists visiting the island.

On Tuesday, Dr Chayanon pointed out that international tourists were already spending more than their predecessors in 2019.

International tourist expenditure in November 2019 was B45,105 per person per trip, with a total of 803,070 international arrivals landing on the island during that month. In November 2022, the figure stood at B49,689 per person per trip, with 479,080 international tourists arriving during the 30 days.

The record during the ‘COVID recovery period’ stands at B56,213 in April 2022, during the height of the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine at ‘hospitels’ – an aspect of the COVID-19 entry requirements that did Thailand’s tourism reputation no favours.

Dr Chayanon on Tuesday emphasised that the expenditure was per person per trip, and voiced his agreement with attendees that large numbers of recent international arrivals were staying much longer than the traditional three to five days of stay by people on actual holidays. He said he was on the cusp of verifying this with the release of December figures by the Tourism Industry Data Center for Research and Development (TIDC).

The TIDC has launched its ‘Big Data’ platform through the website travellink.go.th*, from which Dr Chayanon presented his figures. The platform is the tourism data collaboration that Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, now Advisory Chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, championed during the height of the COVID-19 tourism shutdown while calling for Phuket to receive tourists through what later was called the ‘Sandbox’ policy.

Laguna Phuket 2023

The figures presented on travellink.go.th, provided by a broad spectrum of private sector players from across the industry as well as government agencies, are far more realistic than those promoted by particular government agencies alone. By sheer example, Dr Chayanon identifies with “only” 14mn international tourists visiting Phuket in 2019, not the far greater numbers reported by some government agencies. Private sector players in the industry do not double count the same tourist arriving and departing the island, a practice that gives a false indication of exactly how many tourists actually visit Phuket.

Yet Phuket is already enjoying a large number of visitors, Dr Chayanon pointed out – as many residents in Phuket will attest that traffic on the roads is plainly indicating. Again, by confirmed numbers, Phuket during the New Year holidays a few weeks ago actually had more people arrive on the island for the New Year celebrations than we did in 2019. Fact.

Further, as detailed above, current spending patterns are higher. The impending arrival of large numbers of Chinese travellers will only boost those numbers. Chinese tourists do spend, but they spend differently, Dr Chayanon said. Chinese spend more on Food & Beverage and Shopping than on Accommodation, he explained.

Yet just how many more visitors Phuket needs for its tourism industry to recover is the critical question right now. With national figures touting that up to 7 million visitors from Mainland China alone were expected this year, key tourism figures are urging the government to take steps to help facilitate the influx of mass inbound tourists.

What has been missing among these calls is any recognition that the volume of inbound tourists on mass travel packages will need to be controlled.

That message has now been delivered loud and clear. Now we get to wait and see if anyone actually listened.


* Travellink.go.th is in Thai language only, but a translation app should be good enough for most people to understand what information is being presented.

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ematt | 23 January 2023 - 14:54:01

Anything else, Kurt? 

christysweet | 23 January 2023 - 13:47:40

For years it almost never rained in the winter and Phuket got away with tons of untreated sewage. That's going to change Tuesday evening. I would not go near ANY populated beach after a heavy rainfall -it is a toilet. How many tourists will take home various maladies and parasites and never link it to polluted waters.   

christysweet | 23 January 2023 - 09:54:31

Agree, Cherng-Telay is now a parking lot all day- every day. Would help a lot  to open the short-cut  road  adjacent to the school on Ban Don Road. 

Kurt | 23 January 2023 - 08:41:14

The 14mn tourists question will never pop up in the brain of Phuket Officials, and if it does in that of a single one, it will be ignored. Sad, but true. Hosanna obsession tourist figures. Even ignore the clear road- and traffic circle infarcts.

Kurt | 23 January 2023 - 08:13:48

...was never a meeting. Low educated officials, unable to think, to anticipate, indeed Thai education system lacks encouraging thinking. Just parotting outdated textbooks ( seen myself). Besides, money is God in Thailand, so even when here or there is a thinker, they ignore to make a choice. They go on as it was before Covid period. Will avoid the14 million tourists question.

Kurt | 23 January 2023 - 08:03:49

The 2 yrs Covid recovery period showed clear that Phuket environment recovery happend parallel. It was a clear sign for Officialdom to think/act for Phuket's future sustainability. There are hundreds of nonsense meetings with dozens of 'officials', but about this serious question, .."How many million tourists can Phuket, environmental and sustainable, handle?" ... was never a...

harald | 22 January 2023 - 22:59:28

he can rest easy, because this year no 14 million tourists will come to phuket. europeans would also have to come back in large numbers, but because of the sanctions against russia they are getting poorer and poorer and only the rich from europe can afford vacations here :-D

Capricornball | 22 January 2023 - 22:48:30

Always hear about tourist "arrivals", but what about departures? Much of the Russian wave are not tourists, they are escapers that are here for the long run and are drastically changing the face of this place. Price gouging from greedy businesses, traffic off the charts, illegal biz on the increase. I really can't imagine what a Chinese wave is going to do on top of it.

Fascinated | 22 January 2023 - 16:09:28

Traffic is already a nightmare with fewer numbers. Try getting through Cherng Talay at the moment in less than 20 minutes. They need a bypass there before all the land is developed. There is a route still available.

Kamala Pete | 22 January 2023 - 12:00:27

Chinese owned hotels on Phuket - if the room fees are paid for in China, although the money is "earned" by the hotels here, how does the Thai government calculate and collect the tax due? 

JohnC | 22 January 2023 - 09:31:59

Forget abut does Phuket need 14m tourists. Most critically, can Phuket cope with that number of tourists? All signs point to a big negative on that point but that won't stop the greedy powers that be from pushing for more and more no matter how detrimental it is to the residents of this island.

 

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