Phuket Opinion: It’s been beautiful

02/03/2020

PHUKET: Without doubt, Phuket over the past few weeks has been a changed island. With far fewer tourists than usual this time of year, as of Monday (Feb 23) down more than 36% year on year, anyone lucky enough to be in Phuket has been enjoying beautiful clear skies, light traffic and uncrowded beaches.

The island in recent weeks has delivered everything the low season has to offer, without the downpours – which of all ironies is what Phuket needs right now.

The lack of tourists is certainly being felt by those whose incomes relied on Chinese arrivals, even only in part, but those who launched startup hotels and tour businesses with the sole intent of serving just one source market in the hope of making a windfall might be rethinking their core business strategy anytime about now.

Chinese tourists have always been the mainstay of Phuket’s tourism sector, but they were mostly out of the way, hidden on tour buses, in duty-free stores and staying at hotels catering just to them. Complaints about their overwhelming presence in nearly every corner of the island started rolling in only when the unsustainable blitz of Chinese arrivals began a handful of years ago and the spillover saw “first wave” tourists, here only for the cheap option as a holiday, entering new areas on the island.

That unsustainable growth has now experienced what economists call a “market correction”. But Chinese tourists will be back, and the experts say that the recovery will begin after April. They’re likely to be right. One way or the other, by that time people will get back on with their lives – to go on holidays where they can, health safety permitting. Phuket remains in that zone.

But the main factor keeping tourists away even before the virus crisis was the cost. The strength of the baht and the depreciation of currencies in major source markets was already being felt in the drop of international arrivals. The effect was so pronounced that the tourism stimulus measures being rolled out now were first drafted in October last year, before the Wuhan outbreak.

The virus has changed that factor, for now. Airlines are slashing prices just to fill seats and keep flight routes open. Room rates in Phuket are falling through the floor just to get a few more guests.

If the cost was the one thing keeping you away, right now there couldn’t be a better time to have a holiday in Phuket.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on March 1, 2020

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