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.
“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’.”