Business

Hotels in Phuket struggle as trade war keeps Chinese tourists away

PHUKET: Hotels on Thailand's most popular holiday island of Phuket have been forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.

Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok.

Tourism accounts for 18 per cent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals.

But while 2.2 million people from the country visited last year, according to official figures, numbers for January to September were down almost a fifth on-year.

Mr Claude de Crissey, Honorary Consul of France in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the popular Patong Beach area, said Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

"That was not the case this year," he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50 per cent.

"In terms of business, it is not good," said Mr Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association. "Because... we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops."

Still, Tourism Authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn told AFP that he remained "optimistic", adding: "We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors" this year.

But that is up only from 38.2 million last year, much less than the jump seen from the previous year's total of 35.6 million. - AFP

TOURISM & TRAVEL