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Soaring travel costs to Phuket spark tourist backlash

Soaring travel costs to Phuket spark tourist backlashLegacy

The soaring cost of air travel to Phuket has sparked a backlash from local tourists, with low-cost carriers reportedly charging up to 14,000 baht (US$388) for a round trip from Bangkok. Despite making bookings weeks in advance, some travellers reported paying 5,000 baht (US$138) for a one-way ticket. The president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), Suksit Suvunditkul, confirmed that both airfares and hotel prices in Phuket have been on a steady increase since the pandemic’s end.

According to Suksit, the rising prices can be attributed to the surge in demand during the ongoing high season, predominantly fuelled by foreign tourists. “International tourists were unfazed by high prices as their trips were planned and booked in advance. The airfares are normally combined in the form of connecting flights from Bangkok, so they wouldn’t notice how the prices had adjusted on domestic routes,” explained Suksit.

He further highlighted that the price hike primarily affected local business travellers and domestic tourists. Data for this month reveals that foreign tourists accounted for 90% of all travellers to Phuket, while domestic travellers made up a mere 10%.

Chinese New Year festivities gave a significant boost to the Chinese market, which overtook the Russian market for the first time this year. Between February 1-14, Phuket witnessed the arrival of 66,775 Chinese tourists, surpassing the 54,908 Russian tourists, reported Bangkok Post.

Suksit also pointed out that the high season in Phuket typically runs from November to March, with a peak period between December and February. This period generally results in a spike in airfares and room rates due to increased bookings.

However, the average prices are expected to drop after April when demand reduces during the Songkran festival. In January, hotels in Phuket recorded an average occupancy rate of 89.2%, with an average length of stay of 3.66 days per guest.

Regulatory famework and compliance

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), the regulated ceiling price for a one-way trip from Bangkok to Phuket is set at 6,561 baht (US$182) for low-cost carriers and 9,074 baht (US$251) for full-service carriers. Yet, the President of the Phuket Tourist Association, Thanet Tantipiriyakit, confirmed that no airlines have been found selling tickets above the set ceiling price.

Despite the price surge, Phuket has successfully resumed domestic air traffic, reaching nearly 130 flights per day. Nevertheless, the increase in tourist influx has rendered these services insufficient, particularly for local business travellers. As a result, many locals are opting to drive to nearby provinces like Krabi or Surat Thani to catch cheaper flights to Bangkok.

Thanet also expressed concerns about the potential negative impacts of inflated prices on Phuket’s tourism sector, especially if the quality of services does not match the price increase. “Our concern is that if guests are not treated with good quality services and products, they might not return to Phuket,” he warned.

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