PHUKET is set to join the 'global village' of yachting havens with a world-class marina.
An 81-hectare complex with luxury condominiums called The Yacht Haven is being built at Phang Nga Bay, a protected inlet on the north-eastern corner of Thailand's premier holiday island.
Graeme Laird, operations director for the project founded by a Thai consortium, said: 'It has been conceived and designed as a world-class marina, the first of its kind in Thailand.
'This will be on a par with international marinas such as Sanctuary Cove on Australia's Gold Coast and Port Grimaud in France.' The Yacht Haven is seen as only the first of a marina network for The Yacht Haven consortium, headed by millionaire developer and landscaper to the Thai Royal Family, Pisal Jiropas, and backed by the Phataraprasit Holding Company.
Mr Laird said: 'The company has identified the potential for developing other marine leisure sites in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar [Burma].' Joint ventures are planned to build marinas throughout the region, while the company 'intends to offer management services to yacht clubs and marinas'.
For now, however, the Phuket venture has been launched with US$4 million of registered capital and a development budget of $55 million.
Income will be derived primarily from condominium sales and yacht club memberships, which are currently on offer. Memberships start at Bt350,000 (about HK$116,000).
Two-hundred luxury, low-rise condominiums are being built in The Bay Village, which will include the yacht club; a shopping plaza with restaurants and bars; a sports centre with swimming pools, a fully-equipped gymnasium and sauna; and facilities for tennis, badminton and squash.
Also envisaged is a 200-room luxury resort hotel with convention facilities, a health spa and additional hillside condominiums and villas.
The project was launched recently in Hong Kong (with Richard Ellis appointed property agents) and Mr Laird said it met with 'considerable interest' from potential investors.
It not only offered 'extremely safe' investment potential in Thailand but also allowed investors to link their yachting interests with holiday home opportunities, he said, noting that Thailand was leading the tourist boom in Southeast Asia.
'A facility of this kind has been long overdue in this region,' Mr Laird said.
Peter Luke, skipper for the island's Charter Yacht Service, said: 'This is one of the most interesting places in the world to sail because there is so much variety.
'It also has one of the longest sailing seasons in the world. A marina here is essential - in fact, it is long overdue.' Publisher of Asian Marine magazine Philip Vidal noted: 'Phuket is one of the fastest-growing sailing destinations in Asia.' With some of the most beautiful beaches, coves and scenery in the region, sailing in Phuket could become 'a whole way of life', Mr Laird said.