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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.

patongtourismChinese
By 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 ...

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...

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...

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 ...

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...

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

smithvernon53@yahoo.com | 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 ?

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...

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...

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.

Rocckky | 24 January 2016 - 21:05:22

My take on the subject is quite simple and straightforward. Don't try to make Americans produce "Samba"music....don't believe Brazilians would ever make the best machines or the French would ever be the friendliest people in the world...in other words....don't try to change the CORE COMPETENCES of an individual or a country because they will fail...BIG TIME. Americans would n...

tourist | 24 January 2016 - 19:22:25

Been to Phuket a few times. Prices in bars gone up, now comparable to Western countries,lack of interest in customers from bar staff, over priced taxis making it impossible to get anywhere. And we should suffer this during even longer opening hours? 

Nobster | 24 January 2016 - 08:16:41

The jetski and motorbike hire scams, the Phuket tuks tuks extortive rates and lack of public transport, the lack of promised change and improvement due by the Junta, the focus on the Russian then the Chinese tourist markets, the poor and inadequate airport infrastructure, the murders of Westerners on other Thailand Islands, inept and corrupt police...but in true and typical Thai style they totally...

Richard_S | 24 January 2016 - 07:14:55

I've lived here 15 years and have a business in Patong.  What I see is that even without the Chinese package tours the number of tourists in Patong (and coming to our business) is up dramatically year round.  There is no low season anymore.  The main difference that is causing the entertainment businesses to complain is that now the majority of tourists seem to be from places like the middle e...

Foot | 24 January 2016 - 07:06:24

The pricing wasn't about pure greed. 
The prices for everything started to increase when the number of western tourists started to decline.  Big overhead was ok when there were big tourist counts.  The only way to make up the decline in revenue when the tourists declined was to raise the prices, which, of course, is a very short term solution.  The business didn't have much choice.

rawaiozman | 24 January 2016 - 05:55:37

The damage is done and there is no easy fix.  Like many other comments already made... GREED has destroyed the place with prices for drinks etc the same as in many western countries.  What countries love to sit on the beach each day?  NOT the Chinese thats for sure!  What countries numbers are significantly down? the Europeans? WHY? I'll tell you why... HIGH PRICES, NO BEACH CHAIRS, RIPOFF TRA...

Danang | 23 January 2016 - 21:01:22

I normally spend 3 months in Phuket each year.  Never again, I now go to Chiang Mai or different parts of Isaan.  Patong has destroyed Phuket through greed.  Unfortunately a lot of people will be out of business / work real soon as every westerner I meet hates the place. Too overpriced and people are pretty nasty, unlike other parts of the country.  I have started going to Vietnam which is so much...

Azhar2168 | 23 January 2016 - 19:29:52

Might be going to phuket on this april..basically I love phuket..the people, environment food nightlife and many more..hope not so many changes compare to before

Foot | 23 January 2016 - 18:57:41

The freer spending tourists from western countries have stopped coming because Thailand no longer welcomes them.  Say what you will about the loungers + umbrellas, but, that's how most wealthier westerners enjoy the beach.  And, they like the shops on beach walkways, too.  All gone.  Why come here, when other countries still cater to them?
Unfortunately, Thai authorities don't understand ...

Kurt | 23 January 2016 - 17:06:50

Well, tourists always can go to disco and bars on Patak Road in Chalong. Everything is open till 05:00 AM!
Most places are own by family/friends of police officers, and the Chalong police station is just at 500 meters distance.
So, it is there quite safe.  :-)

neverphuketagagain | 23 January 2016 - 16:43:28

Went out on Bangla rd. last month, 3 beers 2.700 thb, at the next one the price for 3 beers was 1.500 thb. Never going back to Phuket again.

Benjaml1 | 23 January 2016 - 15:58:36

You can't put any blame on Chinese tourists. If they weren't there, Patong would be a ghost town.... The problem with Bangla is that it's tired & overpriced. Same girls with the same tired plot on how to extract the most amount of money out of the naïve tourists. The trouble now is the tourists are no longer naïve to the Jenga, Connect Four & dice games.  Some tired little la...

hondamike | 23 January 2016 - 15:28:16

One reason I reduced my visits... No chairs on the beach.  Bring them back... in a controlled way so that there is open space for those who do not want to pay for a chair.  My family and I love sitting in the cushioned chair all day.. men move the umbrella to keep the sun off you.  Food and drinks are brought to your chair.  Sleep a few hours.  Wake up... swim... drink... eat right at your chair. ...

Phuketfriendly | 23 January 2016 - 15:22:12

The prices are too high!
Not long time ago a ladydrink was priced 120 baht and a standard barfine was 600 baht or even 400 baht in some bars.
Today a ladydrink is 180-240 baht and standard barfine is 1.500 baht.
Many guys used go come here to enjoy good party and female company. They stayed two weeks at a hotel or guesthouse, had food at different restaurants three times a day, had beers and dr...

hondamike | 23 January 2016 - 15:20:34


Those of us who work in China for 12 years know the reason. Every day many bus loads of Chinese tourists arrive in Patong on FREE tours out of China. They are bussed to selected stores to spend money at those stores. Because those stores pay the tour company for every tourist that is dropped off.  That is how the tour makes their money.   You see the Chinese tourists are dropped off at one end...

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