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Phuket’s Tourism Soars Thanks to Chinese and Russians

Alan Woinski

November 2nd, 2023

Skift Take

  • Phuket’s hotel market saw strong growth in the first half of 2023, driven by increased flight volumes, with Russia and China as top tourism markets, and higher room rates post-pandemic.
  • Accor anticipates a surge in hotel conversions due to stricter lending rules, leading to more independent Thai hotel owners seeking franchising, rebranding, or conversion opportunities.
  • Macau plans to invest in attracting foreign tourists but faces challenges due to airport expansion. Wyndham opens its first Wyndham Grand hotel in South Korea, and S Hotels and Resorts launches SO/Maldives in the CROSSROADS Maldives.

C9 Hotelworks released their Phuket Hotel Market Update report, showing hotels experienced momentum in the first half of 2023. At mid-year, international and domestic flight volume was already up 75% over total flights in 2022. Russia and China led the way as the two top tourism source markets in the first six months of the year. Rounding out the top five overseas marketplaces were IndiaAustralia and Kazakhstan. C9 said market-wide hotel occupancy in the first half surpassed the 70% threshold but the real boost for hotel owners has been a sustained post-pandemic trend in higher room rates.

C9 expects Phuket’s year end results to exceed pre-Covid levels but staff shortages and the resort island’s failing infrastructure are a big concern. They mentioned a sure in full and part time residents, driven by a sharp uptick in tourism, an overheating property market and wholesale return of development activity has created massive traffic issues. C9 described it as “carmageddon” a traffic gridlock scenario that will have a profound impact on tourists and residents alike. They named various traffic and transportation projects that have never come to fruition to help what could be a bad situation. All that being said, C9 said hotels and tourism businesses remain concerned over the slow return of Chinese travelers with travel sentiment to the Kingdom muted despite the visa-free initiative. This follows the tourist shooting a few weeks back. Most hotels are now looking to strong demand from RussiaKazakhstan and India, along with the traditional “snow bird” seasonal travelers.

Accor expects a surge in hotel conversions in the post-pandemic hospitality sector, a response to stricter lending rules from financial institutions and a slowdown in the construction of new establishments. Accor said the current supply of new hotels is slow and concentrated among a few major conglomerates across Asia. Small family companies are struggling to secure financing with only large conglomerates with strong cash flow and established relationships with banks likely to receive financing. That has resulted in international hotel operators turning to conversion strategies to supplement the slowdown in new hotel construction. The market in Thailand is an example as Accor noted a record number of inquiries from independent Thai hotel owners about franchising, rebranding or conversion. Branded properties in Thailand have significantly outperformed non-branded properties, a trend that is unprecedented in the Thai market. Accor feels their Handwritten Collection is perfect for the Thai market with the growing demand for boutique hotels over larger ones.

Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance said the government plans to invest MOP235 million (US$29.2 million) in 2024 to attract foreign tourists. The government made this a priority in their renegotiation of gambling concessions and it has been a major bust so far. Its five year plan projects that by 2028 or earlier, the number of foreign tourists visiting Macau will be at the 2019 levels or even higher. The difference is, in 2019, Macau and the concessions did not need to spend US$50 million to get there. Macao International Airport is expected to start its expansion project next year with scheduled completion by 2030. Why waste time and money on attracting foreign tourists when your airport will be like a mess during construction?

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of Wyndham Grand Ijin Busan. The 271 room hotel marks the debut of the Wyndham Grand brand in South Korea. The hotel is located in the country’s second largest city, 20 kilometers from Gimhae International Airport, and caters to business and leisure travelers, featuring spacious rooms and suites, a variety of dining options, rejuvenating spa, heated indoor pool and a state of the art fitness center.

S Hotels and Resorts PCL announced the launch of SO/Maldives, the third resort at CROSSROADS Maldives. The lifestyle resort will complement the two five-star retreats and facilities at the Indian Ocean’s first and only multi-brand, fully integrated leisure destination. SO/Maldives is a US$60 million joint venture project developed with Wai Eco World Developer. The resort is operated by Ennismore and is a collection of beachfront and over-water pool villas, ranging from 120 to 330 square meters. They include the Dream Family Beach Villas and two level, three bedroom Ocean Water Pool Villa Atelier.

A subsidiary of Genting Singapore has been granted provisional approval to develop some 700 hotel rooms and over 21,000 square meters in retail space at Resorts World Sentosa. The expansion is part of the company’s S$4.5 billion pledge to further develop the Resort World Singapore Integrated Casino Resort. The property currently has five hotels providing 1,600 rooms.

Cross Hotels & Resorts announced the signing of a new hotel management agreement with PT. Grha Swahita (BIP Group) that will see Cross Paasha Bali Seminyak become part of an exclusive portfolio on January 1, 2024. The signing becomes Cross Hotels & Resorts’ eighth property in their Indonesianportfolio. Cross Hotels is wholly-owned by ASX listed Flight Centre Travel Group. The current portfolio of Cross Hotels & Resorts includes 28 hotels across four countries represented under six brands – CrossCross VibeAwayLumenCross Collection and Kaura in destinations including IndonesiaThailandJapan and Vietnam.

The Astor Goa has launched an all-suite luxury boutique property in the Candolim area of North GoaThe Archer Hospitality Group has brought their flagship brand to Goa as part of the strategic expansion of their portfolio. This will be their second Astor property after The Astor Kolkata. The Goa Astor includes luxurious suites starting at 485 square feet and includes Luxury SuitesAstor Suites and Studio Suites.

Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt Ltd., a Bengaluru, India – based hospitality firm, said it is in the process of developing at least half a dozen hotels, including two new ones in Tamil Nadu in addition to their recently launched second property in Tamil Nadu at Coimbatore. The ‘O by Tamara’ in Coimbatore has 141 rooms and was acquired last year, undergoing a complete renovation. This is the first acquired property of Tamara Leisure. It follows Tamara Kodai, their first hotel in Tamil Nadu. The O by Tamara-Coimbatore includes 15,000 square feet of banqueting space, the O Café all-day dining space, and The Elevation Spa which features a salon, steam and sauna rooms, hydrotherapy facilities, personal lockers and a fitness center. The company is now targeting religious centers and tier 1 and tier 2 locations for expansion. The company is in the process of developing two more greenfield properties in Tamil Nadu, a 45 room hotel in Kumbakonam and a 70 room hotel in Velankanni under its mid-market brand Lilac.

Alan Woinski

November 2nd, 2023

Companies: Accor, Archer Hospitality Group, Away, Cross, Cross Collection, Cross Hotels & Resorts, Cross Vibe, Ennismore, Genting Group, Handwritten Collection, Kaura, Lumen, Resorts World Sentosa, S Hotels and Resorts, SO/ Hotels & Resorts, Tamara Leisure Experiences, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Locations: Busan, Goa, Macau, Maldives, Phuket, Singapore, Tamil Nadu, Thailand

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