A newly renovated museum highlighting the historic Thai-Chinese heritage of Phuket and Thai-Muslim communities promoting home stays were among several award-winning tourism efforts included in a media fam trip of Thailand’s most popular resort island last week.
The visit to Phuket and Phang Nga Bay between April 20-23 was designed to show the increasing diversity of the product range and how the island’s different cultures are working together to boost tourism even as they pay attention to preserving their cultural and environmental heritage.
Phuket is rapidly emerging as Thailand’s second most important destination and aviation gateway after Bangkok. Over the last two decades, it has seen extensive development of spa resorts, golf courses, yachting marinas, boutique and pool-villa hotels, and numerous attractions and entertainment shows.
According to the immigration department, the number of international passengers arriving at Phuket International Airport in 2010 totalled 1,692,598, up 42.7% over 2009.
In the first quarter of 2011 (January – March), international passengers arriving at Phuket International Airport totalled 654,009, up 25.08% over the same period in 2010. This included a growth of 31.31% (228,768) in January, 24.29% (231,326) in February and 21.55% (193,915) in March.
During 1-23 April 2011, international passengers arriving at Phuket International Airport totalled 123,934, up 30.97% over the same period of the year 2010.
TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni said, “The objective of this fam trip was to showcase and promote some of the award-winning products which have been developed with considerable creativity and hard work by many entrepreneurs, both Thai and foreign.
“The TAT is committed to ensuring that those who constantly strive for high standards get the maximum possible exposure and support,” he said.
The group visited foreign-owned properties; such as, West Sands, a well designed hotel with British investment. Adjacent to it is the Splash Jungle Water Park, a new attraction that is claimed to be the first of its kind in Phuket and arousing considerable interest among the long-stay family market, especially from Scandinavia and Russia.
At the Sukko Cultural Spa and Wellness Resort (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Excellence for Day Spa, Southern Region), the media members experienced a massage of naturopathy based on traditional Thai herbal treatment.
The resort also offers yoga lessons, aqua exercises and Muay Thai Chaiya lessons, a form of Thai boxing that helps its practitioners boost their concentration as much as their self-defence skills.
Also on the itinerary were a number Thai-owned and –operated properties; such as, the Royal Paradise Hotel and Spa (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Outstanding Performance for Resort Hotel with at least 80 rooms, Southern Region) which has been accredited by the ISO 9000:2001 under the concept of having a “Thai identity but international standards.”
At the Bangkok Hospital Phuket (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Excellence for Medical Centre [Private Healthcare Centre], Southern Region), the media was briefed on how this private hospital is catering to the medical tourism market to Thailand. Its team of international coordinators can assist patients in a variety of languages including English, Japanese, Chinese, German, etc.
A visit to the Phuket Old Town (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Outstanding Performance for Tourism Support and Promotion Organisations, Southern Region) allowed the media to appreciate the cultural heritage of Phuket, especially the 140 traditional houses along Thalang Road, the town’s oldest road which has undergone a remarkable clean-up.
One of Phuket’s newest attractions is the Phuket Thaihua Museum which traces the history of the Peranakans, also known as Babas-Nyonyas, the mainly Chinese-origin people from Singapore, Malaysia and to a lesser extent Indonesia, who played a major role in developing the former tin-mining sector of Phuket.
Later, the media group witnessed a traditional Baba wedding ceremony, the only one of its kind in Thailand. The Chinese-style ceremony is helping to attract new wedding business from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The media group stayed for two nights at the Dewa Phuket Hotel, an integrated resort and residential property comprising of 34 Pool Villas and 62 units of Junior Suites and Family Suites targetted at honeymooners and families.
On the island of Ko Yao Noi, about 30 minutes boat-ride from Phuket, the media heard a briefing from Thai-Muslim members of the Ko Yao Community-Based Ecotourism Club (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010 : Award of Excellence for Tourism Support and Promotion Organisations, Southern Region).
On the island, visitors participated in the homestay programme to experience the locals’ lifestyle, farming and buffalo breeding, marine life preservation activity (crab bank), batik-making demonstration, etc.
Another Thai-Muslim community on the itinerary was the Ban Bang Rong Community (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Outstanding Performance for Community-based Tourism Attractions, Southern Region), where people earn a living by coastal fishery and offer ecotourism as well as agrotourism services.
A visit to the Kata Thani Phuket Beach Resort (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010: Award of Excellence for Resort Hotel with at least 80 rooms, Southern Region) provided an insight into how Thai hospitality professionals are running one of the island’s most popular properties.
The final stop was at the Banyan Tree Spa Phuket (the 8th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2010 : Award of Outstanding Performance for Destination Spa, Southern Region), one of the first spas on Phuket and now becoming a global brand in its own right, thanks to extensive training received at its own in-house spa academy.
The media group also enjoyed the cuisine at a number of excellent Thai restaurants, many of them offering signature dishes not found anywhere else in Thailand.
Mr Suraphon said, “The itinerary was designed to provide the media with unique insights into some aspects of Phuket that may not be very well-known. Phuket is known as a beach resort but has a lot more to offer. We were happy to see the trip received a good response.”