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Phuket 'should model itself on Aussie gold coast'

Michael Ayling, managing director of Laguna Resorts and Hotels, shares his |views over the tourism outlook in Phuket.

How do you see the future for tourism in Phuket?

Economic and political events have hurt Phuket's economy as severely as anywhere else in the world. But if we were to look forward 10 years, I firmly believe that we have the product, the people, the developing infrastructure and the will to remain one of the world's top tourist destinations.

What are the main priorities?

The keys are development of our people, new attractions, the building of more high-end hotels, a world-class convention centre, a growing marina industry, an expanded and upgraded airport and, ideally, a coordinated approach by the Phuket hospitality industry toward promoting the island as a destination.

As immediate solutions, it's the launch of "Summer in Phuket", a marketing campaign backed by most of Phuket's hospitality industry to "cancel" the so-called "low season" and rename it "Summer Season". "Summer in Phuket" is a model in microcosm that Laguna Phuket has been committed to for many years.


Phuket still attracts a lot of low-budget tourists. Isn't it about time there were more up-market establishments on offer?

On a broader scale I believe the perception of Phuket as a mass-market tourist destination is changing to a higher-end luxury destination. For example, Laguna Phuket is upgrading our facilities and placing the management of our Laguna Village property development under the highly respected Outrigger brand from Hawaii.

Phuket also needs to complement areas such as the marina industry with more family-oriented attractions such as a water park and entertainment attractions. Phuket should model itself on Australia's Gold Coast, which has good year-round weather.

Can Phuket compete with other destinations, like Bali for example, to broaden the type of tourists it attracts and what needs to be done to do this?

The demographics will change to include many more Chinese visitors, as well as the strong European trade continuing. I think if we adopt the right strategies, some of which I have outlined here, Phuket will not only quickly resume its rightful place in the tourism spectrum but also continue to flourish well into the future.

What about the people who work in the tourism industry?

We must use this period to productively prepare ourselves for the inevitable upturn, which means development of our people. At Laguna Phuket we are using this time to offer free training courses to our staff to upgrade their work-related skills and also non-vocational activities.

On corporate social responsibility, isn't there a tendency to cut corners and reduce this sort of activity during an economic downturn?

No. I do not think CSR should be compromised during tough times.

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