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Where is everybody? Patong businesses suffering ‘worst high season in 10 years’

Where is everybody? Patong businesses suffering ‘worst high season in 10 years’

PHUKET: Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket Office Director Kanokkittika Kritwutikon this week struck out at claims online that Phuket is suffering an incredibly low number of visitors during the current tourism ‘high season’.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Saturday 22 December 2018, 09:20AM

Dancers on Bangla Rd wait for customers to turn up on Wednesday night (Dec 19). Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Dancers on Bangla Rd wait for customers to turn up on Wednesday night (Dec 19). Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The public scramble to reassure confidence in tourist numbers comes while Weerawit Kreuasombat, President of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA), which represents some 500 entertainment businesses in Phuket’s busiest tourism party town, vehemently disagrees – saying that this is “the worst high season in Patong in 10 years”.

Ms Kanokkittika admitted that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Phuket so far this month has dropped by 2.63% compared with the same period last year, but also pointed out that the fall in Chinese arrivals had been offset by a 3.63% increase in the number of arrivals from other source markets.

“I cannot agree that the number of tourists in Phuket has fallen,” she said. “I know the number of Chinese tourists has dropped, as confirmed by Phuket Immigration. They have recorded 130,221 Chinese-national arrivals (at Phuket International Airport) from Dec 1-15.

“That is a decrease of 3,516 people compared with the same period last year, but that has not caused a huge fall in the number of tourists.

“There have also been 355,429 arrivals of other nationalities (during the same period), which is an increase of 3.63%,” she added.

Ms Kanokkittika noted that room bookings from group tours in Phuket had seen a fall of 5% due to cancellations, and a corresponding fall of 5% (down to about 3,000 a day) in the number of tourists boarding tour boats at Rassada Pier, the main departure point for tours to the islands in Phang Nga Bay, including Phi Phi Island.

However, she added, “We have certainly found that we have more FITs (free, independent travellers) travelling here. Hotel occupancy right now across all nationalities 71.77%, which is a 0.1% increase on last year.”

According to figures cited by Ms Kanokkittika, 14.75% of tourists to Phuket during the first two weeks of December were Thai, with the remaining 85.25% comprising foreigners.

“The average spending was B8,2110.80 per person per day, generating an estimated B40.39 billion per day. Hotel occupancy in beach areas is 84.78%,” she said.

Phuket Tourist Association Vice President Sarayut Mallum, who for decades has openly spoken against government policy that has worked to the detriment of Phuket and is now also President of the Phuket chapter of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), agrees with Ms Kanokkittika.

“It is a normal gap in the high season, from Dec 1-15, as with every year. I think more tourists will arrive after Dec 20. Then tourists will come to Phuket,” he told The Phuket News.

“We know that Chinese, Russian and Indian tourists are already coming. Also, the arrivals statistics from Phuket International Airport have not decreased at all,” he said.

“Phuket is not as bad as some people are sharing (online) and talking about. Everyone is doing their job, including the TAT and other government departments. Please don’t believe what some people are saying on social networks. Beware of getting information only from social media.” Mr Sarayut added.


HeadStart International School Phuket


However, PEBA President Weerawit remained steadfast in his understanding of the dire economic situation facing members of his organisation.

“I am a businessman in Patong, and I want everyone to realise the truth about the massive impact here. Some of my members have been seriously affected,” Mr Weerawit said.

“I don’t think the government will help with this at all. They never help us. It is the worst high season in Patong in 10 years. We have no way to avoid being affected by this.

“Don’t lie to yourself. Accept the reality,” he said.

Yet Mr Weerawit also argued strongly against the claims online that Phuket had “priced itself out of the market”, making itself so expensive that the tourists now chose not to come here.

“I want to tell people who comment without understanding about the high prices of food and goods in Phuket. They are the normal prices as they used to be,” he said.

“Less tourists is the result of several reasons, which even includes the upcoming election. The election has not even happened yet, but it is important to people outside (the country),” he added.

Meanwhile, Adith Chairattananon, the ATTA Secretary General in Bangkok, and who campaigned heavily for the government to roll out tourism stimulus packages to offset the plunging number of Chinese tourists coming to Thailand in the aftermath of Phoenix tour boat disaster on July 5, maintained his call for tourism-dependent businesses in Phuket to diversify in order to alleviate their dependence on only one key type of tourist.

“I agree with the description that there are less tourists in Phuket right now. My advice to business people in Phuket is that they have to adapt their businesses in relation with the current economic situation,” he said.

“It is a priority for Phuket province to preserve tourist’s safety and their lives, to charge only fair costs and to be friendly to tourists – all these are needed,” Mr Adith urged.

“Also, we have joined together with the Phuket Tourist Association to hold tourism road shows to promote tourism to Thailand,” he added.

Of note, the Phuket Tourist Association staged tourism road shows in France and Russia before and immediately after the Phoenix disaster on July 5; though the road shows were organised well before that fateful day.

Phuket has since seen surges in the number of arrivals from both those source markets.

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Kurt | 29 December 2018 - 13:02:12

Patong is not thai, it is a totally dirty, smelly, noisy ripping off money pig place.

LES | 28 December 2018 - 20:08:16

Patong has lost much of its  character due to over development and over supply. Fiasco\'s over beach chair policy, rip offs from airport to hotel and the poor exchange rate for tourists has all impacted to the what could be the decline of the resort. There are many places now offering better value. Once travellers have been and experienced the problems they are unlikely to return.

Pauly44 | 27 December 2018 - 15:48:14

Having previously lived in Phuket for 10 years, having many friends in business there, I would never even consider running a business there, too many nightmare stories way too risky on so many levels, I know full well exactly how the place runs and just how fake many of the expats are running businesses there, say anything to spin the reality to make it sound good when in reality its anything but

Kurt | 27 December 2018 - 06:03:40

In Chalong, Naiharn, Kata, Karon, are hotels with 50-60% occupancy only during Xmas-New Year! They call it High Season.

Winfield | 25 December 2018 - 20:40:02

I wrote that Phuket is a tacky mess. This is not "pumping it up to be something its not". That I live here 20 years running tourism businesses makes me qualified to give facts about how busy it is with certain tourists. Unlike [....] who does not live here, never ran a business here, yet claims he knows everything about business here. Try to think before ranting, if that's possible.

Pauly44 | 25 December 2018 - 03:52:10

W - by his own admission operates a tourism business, he has a vested interest in pumping up Phuket to be something its not, I used to live there with no business interests, my opinion is the correct one, Phuket has lost its charm, there are now far better holiday destinations for quality western tourists, Phuket can have its overpriced, polluted, corrupt, dangerous roads, Chinese and Russians. 

Pauly44 | 25 December 2018 - 03:41:58

Hey W, I bet you anything the reason Phuket's roads are so clogged up by crap drivers they drive there from all over Thailand to extort tourists, have you actually taken your blinkers off yet!! only thing is the high spending quality western tourists arent going there anymore, beats harvesting rice or factory work doesnt it, wake up...

Kurt | 24 December 2018 - 16:52:41

On Phuket International airport Immigration not functions according international standards (rude, uncivilised),  same for Van's, taxis, tour busses, Police. Beaches are boring and dirty, many nice restaurants behind beaches in the past , all gone. No public transportation up to 4.0 . Phuket is running herself out of the international tourist market. Nothing going UP, it all goes DOWN.

Galong | 24 December 2018 - 15:31:00

Arrive at the international airport and your first experience in Phuket is a grumpy immigration officer with no English language skills who acts like he's doing you a favor by stamping your passport and that's AFTER you've waited in line forever. This is followed by being ripped off by your transfer. The rip-offs continue after that. It's a wonder anyone still comes here.

Jor12 | 24 December 2018 - 13:59:32

Good swim against the tide of 
contrary comments and stats enunciated in the article Pauly, but good try anyway.

Winfield | 24 December 2018 - 05:33:39

To say that the jammed traffic on Phuket roads is "Thai people coming from other provinces to get on the fast declining gravy train" is almost the dumbest thing ever posted here.  
I do agree that the good days are over in Phuket, for experienced western tourists. But they have been replaced by other demographic tourist groups, who dont seem to mind a tacky messy destination.

DeKaaskopp | 23 December 2018 - 20:07:24

"Happened on Gran Canaria in early 2005/ 50% down,many 100 hotels closed down" What an unbelievable BS ! Totally inaccurate figures. Stop fantasizing and get the facts right.

DeKaaskopp | 23 December 2018 - 20:04:49

"Why on earth would any experienced western traveler go to Phuket these days"And why are you here,hinny?
"Personally i hope Phuket implodes and everyone leaves" DT,how about all those"Cry Babies"who can't cope with the different lifestyle on here compared to their home country leave first?

Pauly44 | 23 December 2018 - 13:33:21

Hey, the roads might be jammed but its not due to tourist numbers, more likely Thai's from other provinces setting up camp in Phuket to get on the fast declining gravy train, get it right people! Just think everything that made Phuket worthwhile is now gone, why on earth would any experienced western traveller go to Phuket these days, its a joke! 

Nasa12 | 23 December 2018 - 08:05:22

This happened on Gran Canaria (Spain) in early 2005> tourists stopped and come, over 50% down many 100 hotels closed down. This is happening in Phuket and Thailand right now.

Griffsbar | 23 December 2018 - 02:14:57

I live here. 
11 years. 
I see the truth. 
Just try to fix it
But unfortunately I think it’s too late. 
People don’t forget too easy 

DeKaaskopp | 22 December 2018 - 18:30:27

Timi,even watered down drinks are sometimes too much for some people.That's why they don't remember if and how many drinks they ordered for a lady to get a little bit of entertainment.My advice for you: Drink a soda next time,they can't water down that and it doesn't interfere with your memories.

Tinkerbell | 22 December 2018 - 18:29:45

Worst in 10 years? Haha. That is a joke. The island is only getting busier and busier every year. But perhaps not in Patong. Many more tourists wandering around the town, and the number of rooms in Kata-Karon has multiplied from 2 hotels and a handful of guesthouses to rows of huge hotels; all full. Northern beaches were all quiet 10 years ago. Not so much now.

Winfield | 22 December 2018 - 17:35:52

The change in incoming tourist types  over the years, has caused a huge decrease in % of sex tourism to Phuket. Of course Patong is complaining. How many of those 500 'Patong entertainment' business are related in some form to sex tourism. This week roads across Phuket were jammed. The place is busy. We are sold out till April with FIT's. TAT are correct.

Foot | 22 December 2018 - 16:37:55

@MJJA. Money is being made, but, not by the average Thai.  
High season was Nov-Songkran in 2013.  Dec-Feb in 2015.
Dec-Jan 2016-17.
Maybe, only 2 weeks of Christmas-New Year in 2018.

Many business' are closing already.  Just look around to see all the shops with few customers.

Foot | 22 December 2018 - 16:27:09

@Timothy, you make valid points. But, remember, it is the government who has eliminated many things tourist would come for:  Beach side bars, restaurants, night clubs, + shops. Beach chairs+ umbrellas. In general, a welcoming attitude. Western tourists got tired with such an attitude. Is it now happening with the Chinese?

Pascale | 22 December 2018 - 16:02:03

Read in another article that Phuket has improved on the road death/accident  status from worst place in Thailand  to 26th worst. Now i read about tumbling tourist figures. There must be a connection with both numbers, which shows how bad those tourists drive when they rent a bike without experience or license.

Discover Thainess | 22 December 2018 - 14:35:20

Utter nonsense as usual. Tourists won’t eveb know there is an election and certainly won’t care. They don’t come because of all the problems that are well publicized: pollution, traffic, taxis, rip offs everywhere you go and all tourist deaths. You reap what you sow! Personally I hope phuket does implode and everyone leaves as it will get time to recover, like Maya Bay.

Werni | 22 December 2018 - 11:57:28

Get the figures right, the average spending a day is certainly not 82110.80 Baht 

Xonax | 22 December 2018 - 11:11:48

I totally avoid Phuket because of the crazy high prices for Taxi and TukTuk.  But I use Phuket airport to transfer to Phang Nga.


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