The dynamic twosome of Bangkok’s Airways International expansion and emergence of Surat Thani as a secondary aviation gateway has dramatically altered the tourism footprint in Thailand’s second most popular resort island Samui. A quick glance at the numbers tells the story, as market-wide hotel occupancy hit 72% in 2016 and airport arrivals pushed over the 1.2 million threshold.
Key data from consulting firm C9 Hotelworks latest Samui Hotel Market Update reflected an altered state in the hospitality sector with Mainland Chinese travelers now filling in the gaps of a once highly seasonal destination. During the first nine months of last year the China-led rush resulted in 61% growth in volume compared to the same period the year before.
Much of the momentum can be attributed to Bangkok Airways international expansion which has shifted focus from Southeast Asia and onto North Asia. In the second quarter of this year the carrier will increase flights from Samui to Chengdu to daily service and is expected to add Chongqing at a later date. Currently a THB1 billion baht upgrade for the island airport is under a bidding process and first-phase work is expected to commence within this year.
Samui’s airlift is no longer a one trick pony with the emergence of nearby Surat Thani as a secondary gateway. Flight arrivals last year to the latter spiked up by 30% and are forecasted to grow further in 2017.
Just as we have seen the twin airport story in Bangkok play out with Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, the plug and play model for the resort-led market of Samui is benefitting from both strong domestic and international trajectory from Bangkok Airways but also the low-cost carrier rapid fire expansion in Surat Thani.
Looking into the future C9’s report reflects positive market sentiment and a strong balance between supply and demand in the incoming development of new hotels. One of the most anticipated openings in 2017 is the 175 key luxury tier Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui which is a large-scale investment by Malaysia’s YTL Group.
While the impact of ‘Chinacation’ has not cut hotels’ average rates, with the destination primarily attracting individual travelers, there are signs of a shift in the demand. With the steady growth of airlift to Surat Thani Airport, Samui is expected to attract a broader market of midscale and upscale segments with pipeline hotels weighted toward these types of products.
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