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Going Down: Businesses on Phuket’s famed Bangla Rd suffer as clientele dries up

PHUKET: The island’s top nightlife drawcard Bangla Rd in Patong is taking a battering in business this tourism high season despite officials reporting record numbers of tourist arrivals.

patong, tourism, Chinese,


Tanyaluk Sakoot

Saturday 23 January 2016, 09:00AM


Bars along Phuket's famed Bangla Rd in Patong are suffering hard as the regular tourist clientele source markets are drying up. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot
Bars along Phuket's famed Bangla Rd in Patong are suffering hard as the regular tourist clientele source markets are drying up. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Sompoch Sukkaew, chief legal counsel of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA), says that entertainment businesses in the area are suffering hard.

“Over the past three years, most bars were averaging about B90,000 revenue per day at this time of year,” he said. “Now they’re making just B40,000.

“Small bars in small streets off Bangla Rd used to average B40,000 to B50,000 a day, now they’re down to just B10,000 a day.”

Live music venues were suffering worse. “They used to average about B360,000 as day during the peak season, but now they’re making just B60,000 to B90,0000 per day,” Mr Somphoch said.

“In total, PEBA members generated about B1.5 million per day during the peak season. Now it’s down to about B540,000 per day,” he added.

Mr Somphoch noted that PEBA members account for 500 businesses in Patong, with at least 200 businesses in the Bangla Rd entertainment zone.

“Small businesses are suffering the worst,” said PEBA President Weerawit Kuresombat. “Bigger businesses are doing okay, but many businesses elsewhere in the entertainment zone, including in the usually busy sidestreets – such as Soi Tiger, Soi Freedom, Soi Sea Dragon and Soi Crocodile – are hurting.

“Many of these will close down soon,” he foretold.

Mr Somphoch also painted a grim picture for the immediate future of small nightlife businesses in the entertainment district.

“More than 40 bars in the entertainment zone will close down after this high season,” he said.

The plunge in Bangla trade is being felt elsewhere throughout the resort town as the knock-on effect spreads, affecting many other tourist-dependent businesses, Mr Weerawit added.

“All businesses are affected by this, like a network. It is also affecting motorbike rentals, small shops, restaurants and even hotels,” he said.

The huge shift in recent years for Phuket’s tourism industry to rely on Chinese arrivals tourists played a critical role in the current situation, Mr Weerawit noted.

“Chinese tourists are the top tourist arrival market in Phuket, and although we have huge numbers of Chinese coming here, most of them come on complete tour packages,” he said.

“This means they spend very little on extras beyond the package they bought. They rarely venture out for the nightlife or even visit independent restaurants. They just don’t spend much.

“Also, European tourists now only come to Phuket for short-term stays and today it is much more competitive for Phuket to attract international arrivals. There are many options for tourists to choose from, not just Phuket.”

A lack of comprehensive marketing strategy in attracting tourists is leaving many smaller businesses excluded from reaping the benefits from the surge in Chinese arrivals, Mr Weerawit added.

“We need a much improved plan to better promote the Phuket as a tourism destination,’ he said.

Mr Somphoch agreed. “This is having a huge effect. We have tried several different strategies to attract more tourists to enjoy our members’ services to improve the economic situation, but they have all failed,” he said.

Extended trading hours for nightlife businesses in the entertainment zone would help alleviate the economic pressure on small businesses, said both Mr Weerawit and Mr Somphot.

“Phuket attracts different types of tourists now, and the revenue generated by the entertainment industry is less than in past years,” Mr Weerawit said.

“If the government recognises this and extends the trading hours and expands the entertainment zones, Phuket can maintain its recipe for success.”

Mr Somphoch noted that the PEBA is still waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Interior about their request to extend trading hours and expand the entertainment zone in Patong.

“We also held a public hearing and appealed to the Phuket provincial officials at the end of 2015,” he said. “We still hope that officials will recognise the reality in Patong. It should be a special zone.

“Phuket can be better than now, and all we are asking for is to at least extend the trading hours in the Patong entertainment zone to 4am.

“All I can say about this is that it’s ‘about time’.”

 

 

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yvonne | 23 August 2017 - 19:46:46

Phuket has lost it's Good Tourists !Especially  Individual Tourists and small Groups of family or friends. NOW Phuket
shot itself in the foot with HUGE Groups of RUDE Cheap Package Tour Groups from certain Countries who spend very little on other amenities or services. They storm the Buffet Breakfasts, shove and push,load their plates(two plates per person is not unusual believe me!)eat like pigs, are loud, rude to Staff and other CIVILIZED Guests alike who watch of all of this in disgust, make a noise in their rooms at night.dining rooms look like they have been hit by a typhoon after they have left.Others again hog all the space around the pool are drunk by Noon !and from certain Countries  ogling the women around the pool passing comments in their languages. Their manner just as Bad and even WORSE at times. 
Many regular, some of twice regularly for past 20 years are NO longer visiting, neither their children now grown up and regular travelers themselves and immediate friends and other family members as word has got around. Honeymoon Couples are 
longer favouring Phuket as their Agents are advising against
Phuket and offering other destinations with cleaner beaches,environments, even more beautiful like Maldives,Vietnam, Bali is back on the Map with especially other Islands in Indonesia and MALAYSIA is following ( although their beaches are  as good) Mauritius for sure and Seychelles and Philppine Islands and Caribbean are beginning to feature more and more.Cambodia/Laos for Interesting Holidays. So the Competition is growing daily. The groups in Phuket do not frequent different Restaurants every night, do not do all the day Excursions,visit Health Venues or go to Jungceylon etc. They  are not spenders. Also all the SCAMS, Riff Offs,HIGH and INFLATED Prices everywhere for everything have taken their toll ! AND it is going to get WORSE.!

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malczx7r | 23 August 2017 - 10:07:46

I don't go to Patong, i went once when i came her 5 years ago, but because of the greedy mindset of the Thias who want to cream as much money as they can they are shooting themselves in the foot! Drinks, more expensive than London, taxi's same as London! People used to come to Asia for cheap holidays, if they keep this greed mindset up it will soon be gone.  My American friend and his Thai GF went to Cambodia a few weeks ago, she couldn't believe how cheap it was there, she has a bar in Phuket!

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Franz977 | 22 August 2017 - 19:39:28

I've been in Patong already a few time. Since my first arrival, back in 2007, I've seen the town rise (a bit) and then going down this downfall. Price rose, crooks grew, tourists changed. The most recent time I was there in November 2016. Let me say, it was the worst time. Most of the bars in the side sois were dead empty and with unreasonably high prices. It looks like the board is accusing the Chinese people as the cause of this fall, but I disagree. Ok, they stick in herds and don't spend much in extras. But when I was there, hotels were mostly empty, bars were empty, restaurants were the same. All this room could be filled with spendy-Russians, Europeans, Americans and Aussies. But why weren't they there? Patong isn't anymore attracting. Like my European brethrens, this year I'm not coming back. The reason is that the beaches are spoiled, just to say, Kai Islands (probably already in Krabi Province?) had all their reef destroyed by the mass tourism, the beaches are filthy and bad smelling, tour guides unfriendly. On Patong beach all the day with the roaring sound of the Jet Skis and Parasailing boats. Taxi drivers are very unfriendly and costy. By the way, I've known that many bars of Soi Eric closed down as the landlord sold the places to a company to build... a mall designed to satisfy Chinese tourists! It's the typical Thay logic. I love Thailand and I like Patong much and it's a pain to see how it crumbled down. I miss those funny nights with crowdy bars, cheaper food and drinks and nice beaches.

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TTT Tony The Tiger | 29 January 2016 - 09:57:01

Mr. Somphock is the Chief Legal Counsel for PEBA.  What in the world is he doing defining the reasons for the reduced flow of income as something so selfish as extending the trade hours to 4:00AM and expanding the "entertainment" zone.

One only needs to read the many comments to this article in your paper to realize what needs to be done.  Reading slightly between the lines, you will note that the underlying problem is the Greed.  Not by those who would enjoy "a night on the town" but by the members of PEBA.  True, I am not aware of the "graft" tat they must pay to the many varieties of "thugs", Law enforcement officials, landowners, politicians, and the like.  But, if truth be told, You, the journalistic vehicle of Phuket should not present articles without the proper investigation of the "speakers" truths.  I am quite convinced that your articles carry the punch of a boxer who long ago should have retired.  I challenge you, Phuket News to deliver a tabloid product with fact finding investigation and truthful reporting.  Tell it like it is, not how others tell you how it should be. 

Mr. Sompphock, has mentioned that they (PEBA) have failed in every way with every program that they have tried.  Of course, they have not been truthful about their greed, nor have they addressed how defeat the forces that "wag" their tail.  Listen to the people and the truth will set you free.

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Mad Laamont | 25 January 2016 - 15:12:08

A lot of people seem to be blaming the bars for increased prices however this is not a result of greedy bar owners, it's a result of greedy landlords. This key money (scam) means you have to buy your business every 3 years.  With landlords charging big money for business and rents, the only way a small business owner can make money is to increase prices to cover the costs.  People are right with saying that all the bars are the same, play the same boring music that is so loud you can't talk to a girl even if you wanted to.The truth is Thai DJ's have no understanding of what the clientele wants.  They need to look at the customers in each Soi and play the music accordingly.  Soi Freedom is the only Soi that is half way there with doing something different and offering clients music that caters for the demographic group.  The clientele is a little older and prefers live music.  There are many live music venues, but Soi Freedom is the only live music Soi on Bangla.  However, when the band finishes, the DJ plays that stupid dance, rap, house, disco music the same as everyone else and all the customers leave.  They need to keep the band going or get the DJ to play band music to keep those customers there.  Extending hours will not help these businesses.  The only businesses that will benefit are the discos, most bars will finish by 3am anyway.  People need to learn to adapt in order to keep tourists and customers interested.  Simply copying everyone else is not the answer.  Phuket has so much more to offer than places like sleaze of Pattaya or the concert jungle of Bangkok, unfortunately people are too stupid to see it.  The number one problem, people think about today, instead of looking at the bigger picture and thinking about 5 or 10 years from now.  

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phil_p | 25 January 2016 - 14:47:24

This year i speak only 30% of my nightlife budget because i could not find interesting ladies ( sexy and good attitude ) 8 years ago , no matter where i did go , i could find at least one. Now it has become a job. I dont play anymore. Farewell Thailand

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smithvernon53@yahoo.com | 25 January 2016 - 08:51:58

The main reason is the Thailand has become very expensive and the land of smiles is not what you think the smiles are for the reasons we all no ?

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BigA | 25 January 2016 - 07:24:21

I am glad to be a sailor,that's why I stay on Phuket for 25 years now!I had a bar at Soi crocodile in the 90is all the Lady's I can think of,now I do more sailing and less Lady's.Feel sorry for you guy's nothing else to do as bars,no beach chairs ,umbrellas have to walk from the beach to get a beer!Sad, really sad!I feel sorry for you all!I hope you all go to Vietnam!or somewhere else.I rather go  sailing!AHOI

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LES | 25 January 2016 - 02:04:01

Quality tourists go to quality resorts but Phuket has such a bad reputation from the minute you arrive, the taxis try to over charge at the airport. No proper public transport,cant sit on the beach for fear of breaking the ever changing rules, dirty water being washed into the sea, jet ski/tuk tuk mafia, over priced drinks, why on earth would anyone want to return on these terms, endemic corruption, useless policing (unless there money to be made).
What Phuket has got is breathtaking beauty and some top hotels with superb caring staff, but sadly the whole island is becoming land grab and sadly if something is not done the island will be finished in 20years

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Thighlander | 24 January 2016 - 21:14:27

the places with the high rent, high land values have been beaten into the ground.  The landlords are of no help.  Most of the properties would be worth more without the structures on them.  Same thing happened on Sukhumvit...most of the things that made it famous are now long gone.

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