The cautionary perspective on Phuket’s coming tourism high season this year-end follows the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Intelligence Center this week reporting that 409,316 international arrivals passed through Phuket airport throughout October, an 18.44% increase on the 345,598 international arrivals recorded during the same month last year.
Mr Bhummikitti warned that the year-on-year jump for October alone is not an indication of the coming high season.
“We should compare the number of tourist arrivals for the whole year, not only one month because it could be affected by many factors,” he said.
“First, we have to see where the tourists were from. We had 14.4 million tourists in total by the end of December last year. This year we expect the number to be up by 7-8%.
“I can explain why the number grew for October, but I cannot explain what that means for the whole year by using a comparison of the number of tourists for only one month.”
Mr Bhummikitti pointed out that comparing year-on-year figures for October was more complicated by the ongoing fallout from the Phoenix tour boat disaster in July last year, in which 47 Chinese tourists died, still affecting the arrivals figure as late as October last year.
“There was an accident in July 2018 that affected the number of tourist arrivals up to and through October 2018 – and this year the number was up due to the Chinese National Day holidays [‘Golden Week’],” he said.
“There are events happening each month affecting tourism, at this stage we cannot make any comparisons. We’ll just have to wait to see the overall number of tourists for the whole year,” he added.
However, the tourism outlook for Phuket over the 2019-2020 high season, from about mid-November through to March, was looking positive, Mr Bhummikitti noted.
“For Q4 this year, we checked the number of tourist arrivals from two sources: the airlines and our member hotels. As for the airlines, we had a meeting last month and were told that flight bookings to Phuket are quite healthy,” he said.
Mr Bhummikitti was confident that arrivals passing through Phuket during the high-season months would show an increase of 8-10% compared with the same months last year.
However, he added, “We could only check from the airlines the number of passengers coming to Phuket International Airport, we could not tell where they go, whether they stayed in Phuket or went elsewhere, such as Khao Lak.”
“Chinese and Indian tourists won’t go somewhere else, but Europeans may go to Khao Lak. That said, we will not know until we can get comparative figures of the number of tourists from each country.”
The figures from TAT Intelligence Center provided only the total number of arrivals for each day, with no other details available.
Advance bookings among PTA member hotels also looked solid, Mr Bhummikitti said.
“We checked the advance booking rate last month and found that the rate for Q4 so far this year and the advance booking rate for Q4 last year are the same, so we think occupancy will not be less than last year,” he said.
Again, Mr Bhummikitti offered as a rider, “Please note that we could only check the occupancy rates at 300 hotels that are our members, so the number may not represent the all hotels on the island.”
While the advance figures for this high season looked sound, although without growth, Mr Bhummikitti urged people to not project the tourism industry’s performance much past the New Year.
“We are not looking that far into next year because tourist behavior can change very quickly, many tourists these days, when they change their travel plans, do so at very short notice. They don’t make early bookings as much anymore, and the average length of stay is getting shorter and shorter,” he cautioned.