Khun Bhuritt Maswongssa is the highly articulate Vice President for Marketing of the Phuket Tourist Association. We caught up with him at the Patong Resort Hotel, where he is also the long standing Deputy General Manager.
What is your main role as VP Marketing for the Phuket Tourist Association?
My responsibility lies in promoting Phuket as a tourism destination worldwide driving maximum arrivals and the resulting revenue that is derived from tourism. Our activities are funded by Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization via the hotel room tax levy on all stays in Phuket and so I have direct responsibility to use this budget to maximum effect in benefitting all the members of our Association.
At present we are concentrating mainly on road shows to boost familiarity of Phuket and communicate three vital principles which we call the three “S’s”….
namely Safety & Security; Sanitary and Satisfactory.
What are the emerging tourism trends for this high season in Phuket?
Clearly we live in a very volatile world in which both man-made and natural impacts on societies and economies, and therefore tourism, are occurring dramatically and rapidly all over the globe.
As a result long haul arrivals into Phuket from Europe and the USA are down, but have been more than replaced by emerging shorter haul markets particularly
those of emerging Asia; Russia and the Middle East. Obviously the impact of the current turmoil in the Middle East is yet to be felt and of course there is already an ongoing impact on oil prices and corresponding fuel surcharges.
Shorter haul visitors are tending to stay for shorter time periods….we are currently averaging 2.8 to 3.5 days per visitor, whereas the average for European longhaul visitors was 6 to 7 days. However, forward bookings suggest that we will see a continuation of the “high” season later into the year in 2011, at least until the end of April and maybe beyond.
We are also seeing a tightening of “yield” from the tourists who are coming. Generally visitors are much more costconscious and while numbers are good, many fist time visitors have been spurred to come as a result of the explosion in ”low cost carrier” air connections to the island.
What does the future hold for Phuket’s tourism industry?
Clearly higher numbers of tourist arrivals mean more environmental, cultural and social impacts and this will not bode well for future sustainability unless these impacts are effectively managed. The problem we have at present is that most in the industry have a very short term attitude and are only concerned about survival and profitability right now, rather than longer term sustainability.
There are many new directly competitive and good value Asia destinations to Phuket coming on stream in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. If Phuket’s appeal declines through environmental damage,traffic congestion, tourist rip offs and so on and our costs continue to rise, potential visitors will vote with their feet and take their holidays elsewhere. We need to put in place strong government and private sector bodies which have the mandate to control and regulate the way in which tourist developments occurs. They need to be well-funded and have the “teeth” to actually make policy really work. But at present I can see little will-power to do this. It is not a particularly encouraging situation.
How has Thailand’s political situation effected Phuket?
In many ways Phuket is being seen as almost a separate country to the rest of Thailand, where abundant direct air links mean that Bangkok can be avoided and the island accessed all the quicker without the need for stop-overs. We have a high rate of returning visitors, as well as friends and families of residents etc and so many visitors know the geography of Thailand very well and they realize that Phuket has not been tainted by the political protests. These factors have certainly helped insulate Phuket from the main impact of political turmoil in the capital and the north of the country.
Where would you like to see the improvements in Phuket for tourists?
I would love to see the infrastructure in Phuket vastly improved to provide greater convenience for tourists such as wider footpaths for tourist to walk without fear of traffic, the fairness of pricing for transportation and green areas or parks, I mean the real park for tourist relaxation and so on. These could bring up the standard of Phuket’s tourism industry and increase Phuket’s longevity as a dream destination for the world tourism market.