Thailand’s PhangNga Province recorded an all-time record high 4,475,223 visitors in 2016 as tourism revenue topped USD1.16 billion according to a new report by consulting group C9 Hotelworks. While the numbers are impressive, the destination’s lack of a gateway airport remains a stumbling block to broader success. (Download the full report http://www.c9hotelworks.com/downloads/khao-lak-hotel-market-update-201707.pdf
Phang Nga and its leading resort areaa Khao Lak heavily rely on Phuket’s overloaded international airport as a lifeline. With over 12,000 registered hotel rooms in the province and a burgeoning pipeline of new projects, something has to give.
Plans for the development of a privately operated airport in Thai Muang District by Bangkok Airways is currently under review as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). While Phang Nga’s provincial government has been a strong advocate, the project has faced local opposition from the agricultural sector.
The framework for a privately operated airport in Thailand’s tertiary tourism destinations has experienced considerable success back of Bangkok Airways award winning Koh Samui facility. Recently making news has been AirAsia’s overtures to commence service to Hua Hin which has suffered from the lack of direct airlift for its tourism market.
Looking at Phang Nga’s key economic indicators, the province experienced a key shift in 2014 and 2015 when the hotel and restaurant sector surged ahead of agriculture and fisheries to become its leading industry. While the province’s legacy rubber plantations face growing volatility and fishing is seeing flat demand, tourism over the past five years has skyrocketed with a compound annual growth rate of 29%.
Taking a closer look at C9’s report, one decided difference between Phang Nga and many of Thailand’s other resort area is that the Western Europe still accounts for 65% of the international visitors, though key rising markets are Korea, Mainland China, Australia and Russia.
In what is stacking up to be a soaring hotel market without an airport, Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 said “Phuket International Airport despite its expansion is already exceeding stated capacity and added pressure to service the Andaman region is creating a juggernaut. A Phang Nga airport would be a benefit for both the province and Phuket’s tourism sector as well. If the situation is allowed to continue the long term limitation will stunt the provinces most important industry.”