May 06, 2013 00:00 By Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit
Operators urged to focus on 'Thainess', eco-tourism as selling points
The hotel industry in Phang Nga province’s Khao Lak will more than double from 9,000 guestrooms this year to 20,000 in five years.
Sompong Dowpiset, the owner of Casa de la Flora, a luxury boutique resort, told The Nation last week that the influx of foreign tourists will be a key driver, rising from 8,000 to more than 10,000 in 2014.
Hotel developers here should not follow the trend of international chains. They should look for ways to design a concept that fits the area, which is rich in unspoiled natural resources and the simple lifestyles of local people, he said. A hotel should have its own character and sell “Thainess”.
Sompong, co-founder of Boontavorn, a major sanitary ware distributor, said the firm plans to construct two hotels to capture specific groups, but declined to disclose the investment.
One of them is La Sella, which will target families, while the other one is undergoing a feasibility study as a place for a vacation and medical stay at the same time.
Possibly, elderly tourists from the West will be one of the potential markets. In Western culture, most retirees live alone, while in Asia, they stay with their family under the care of their children.
Under this plan, he will approach his foreign friends, who are retired doctors in the US, to work here.
With the tourism business booming, all parties in Khao Lak should work more closely to secure its sustainable development, focusing on tourism infrastructure like wastewater treatment facilities and human security systems.
The area should not follow the business models of Phuket or Pattaya for long-term growth, as these two resort cities seem to be plagued with problems ranging from the environment to crime and congestion.
Khao Lak is clearly positioned as eco-tourism destination. It has no need to become bigger. It is a holiday haven for foreign tourists from Europe, Australia, German-speaking countries and the UK. The stronger baht and economic troubles in Europe have not hurt the tourism scene here.
It has rebounded completely from the deadly tsunami of December 2004.
For the national tourism strategy, the government should do more promoting in selective markets globally rather than all of them and make its policy clear which group of foreign travellers will get the most attention.
In Phuket, German and regular European tourists have disappeared because of the invasion of Russian visitors, he added.