Mainlanders fuel Phuket growth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2011, 12:00am

Phuket's tourist portfolio has tracked significant changes in recent years, attracting Russian and mainland travellers to the Thai resort in ever-growing numbers, and shifting away from its traditional pool of Europeans.

According to Phuket-based consultancy C9 Hotelworks's latest market research report, new direct and charter flights, particularly from the mainland and Russia, are fuelling Phuket's tourism growth.

Last year, there were 21 per cent more flights from the mainland, Australia, Russia, the Middle East and regional destinations than in the previous 12 months.

Luxury hotel operators have been working to realign their strategy in a bid to cater to these fast-emerging groups. Hotels are fine tuning service standards and broadening their scope of activities including the offering of excursion trips, to cater to the preferences of the mainland market.

'We see a significant differentiation to these two groups of guests. Generally, Chinese guests tend to stay for a shorter period if compared to Europeans. Chinese guests actively participate in activities and excursions, especially those culture-centric trips, whereas the European guests would go for snorkelling, diving and island hopping,' explains Anna Olsson, director of sales and marketing at the Indigo Pearl Resort. The luxury resort offers a greater range of Asian breakfast options, including sushi and Peking duck, at its Black Ginger Restaurant than it previously used to do.

With the market's growth, underscored by the increasing spending power of mainlanders and Russians, the hotel is focusing its energies on advancing language training for its staff, to better improve communication with guests from across the globe. The Royal Phuket Marina, a Mediterranean-style residential marina and lifestyle community featuring alfresco restaurants, bars, retailers, and a health and fitness club, has also seen a shift in its client base with a reduction in the number of European-based investors, and a surge in Russian and mainland clients.

The residential development is in the process of translating its website into Russian and Chinese, and has stepped up the recruitment of multilingual staff to meet the needs of buyers from those countries.

Royal Phuket Marina executives are also attending key exhibitions and networking with prospective buyers on the mainland and Russia in a bid to heighten the profile of the development on Phuket's eastern seaboard overlooking Phang Na Bay.

'As purchasing property to most of the population is a fairly new concept in Russia and China, owning property either at home or abroad is a very attractive proposition and, as such, making a decision to purchase a property regardless of the current worldwide climate is a more straightforward decision,' says Mark Vaughan Brown, director of sales at the Royal Phuket Marina.

As travel becomes more affordable, coupled with the availability of more direct flights from different destinations in a globalised world, the hospitality sector expects to see continued strong demand from this new group of travellers.