Phuketindex had an opportunity to talk to these two leading tourism players in Phuket about current tourism issues like direct flights, budgets for events & promotion, lowering hotel & tuk tuk prices, & later closing times, to attract more international tourists here. We spoke to them after a press conference in Thai held at the Phuket Merlin Hotel, on 7 June 2010, on boosting domestic tourism especially during this ‘green’ season, to promote Thai and residents’ travel & tourism in Thailand, also for Meetings Incentive Conventions & Exhibitions or MICE groups and Thai based companies to encourage more meetings in local hotels, including Phang Nga, using Phuket and its airport as a base. They told us that at the moment Phang Nga hotels are only 20-30% occupied, while Phuket is also only about 30-40%, as Somboon speaks at the beginning of the first in our four videos of the interview; this is a summary of what they said, but watch and listen for their full comments:
Somboon said “May & June are usually the worst occupancy months of year, normally 40-50%, but due to recent unrest in Bangkok now it is less. As Bangkok is settling down, July onwards should be OK. More Aussies are coming thanks to their direct flights; the Korean market is one of the most important, we now have 20 flights a week bringing 12000 passengers to Phuket. We made road show in April. Got good feedback. They want to come to Phuket.”
Is it true Aussie airlines like Virgin Blue may review or cut back their direct flights?
“We haven’t heard that but some reports say they may increase flights; they are happy with flights; Thai Airways in Australia also want to make direct flights twice a week from Sydney to Phuket.”
Do you think Thai Airways prices are too high?
“It depends on marketing. They have to be competitive.”
From what other places are Thai Airways considering direct flights?
“Other destinations for direct flights include Germany-Frankfurt, China-Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chengdu, Beijing, India-Dehli – they may start soon eg we heard Shanghai could start in next 1-2 months.”
What about funding by TAT as there is criticism it is not enough – eg none for Phuket Film Festival?
Bangornrat said “we don’t have much local budget. They had to approach Bangkok as decided by Bangkok. We only have spare for local cultural projects; 800,000 baht per year.”
Don’t you think there should be more?
“Yes if they apply well in advance 1 year, not just a few months.”
But they have been on 3 years ago, tried again last year, put it off, then on this year;
“They have to apply year by year, well in advance, year ahead.”
What about the Phuket Beach Volleyball event for pros – now they want support for amateur event. Are you worried it might be lost completely if the Phuket provincial Administration Organization or PPAO cannot support amateur event?
Somboon said “of course. One of our dreams is to make Phuket a dream holiday also for sports and entertainment, so important to have international events. Pity if TAT(?) don’t have budget any longer.”
Should there more cooperation among all local organizations here?
“6 million baht is still a lot to support for local organizations. If possible we will try to approach more sponsors (companies?)”
Does PTA have budget?
“Not really, we get some from PPAO for road shows. We have annual fee from members, some from TAT. We are non-profit organization.”
Bangornrat said “Phuket Governor’s office have some budget – there are some alternatives or emergency budget…..”
Is the TAT supporting music concert event?
Bangornrat said “The Roy Fest or new music concert is this month – is international with DJs from overseas with Thai bands. Free for public.”
Is it worth supporting and good to have in rainy season?
Somboon said “sometimes we need events now, to encourage people to travel.”
Is it good location and too noisy for Karon?
“Only on 2 days; public will be informed in advance.”
The surfing contests are also cut back, now only 1 main event unlike last year they had 3. Can anyone support them?
Somboon said “we wish we could host all events. We have 5 million tourists & 1,000 million baht revenue each year, but budget we get back is low.
The government said they will spend 1.5 billion baht – surely some should come here?
“They have to spread throughout country, not just on local events. The Ministry of Tourism & Sports is in charge. TAT only do marketing.”
Are you pushing the Ministry to get some money?
“We have sent suggestions on what to do to draw more tourists, just opinion.”
Heard Thai Airways and Royal Orchid want to bring down hotel prices for packages – is it true and good idea?
“No, it depends on market supply & demand. You have to think why people don’t travel at this time due to warnings etc. Even if you gave free rooms they did not come.”
Will PTA refuse to bring down prices?
“Not only PTA, all hoteliers in Phuket & Phang Nga do not agree. Price is not a Paracetamol to cure everything.”
I heard 400 Indian couples coming for weddings in Phuket?
“Not couples, 4-800 people for 1 couple, not 400 couples; already come this weekend; 1 couple with 400 guests; not 400 couples as misreported by local press.”
Also heard more Chinese groups coming?
“When their government lifts travel advisory; it’s OK for groups to come.”
But they are not really high spenders?
“No; Not cheap, some low, some spend on 6 star villas, so kind of varied segments.”
Tuk Tuks are still the biggest complaint for tourists – do you think prices should come down and meters put in?
Bangornrat said “After the Honorary Consuls meeting, the Or Bor Tor (District administration organization) in Patong try to agree standard prices, but meters would take longer.”
Somboon said “it’s a local rule for different areas. If they can agree fixed prices nice, but let local administration do their job to manage local tuk tuks. Not 100% solve, but getting there.”
Any other issues really important for tourism eg request for later closing times for entertainment places?
Somboon said “not many complaints but most close at 2am but not heard many complaints or requests for later; most tourists are now in families with kids, not just for entertainment.”
No more comments about budget?
Bangornrat said “the 1.5 billion baht will mainly be for overseas marketing, especially in Asian countries – Somboon said we need to change attitudes so they feel more comfortable to travel, encourage journalists, they don’t always believe TAT. We asked Governor to send message it’s safe here.”