Instead of the usual state-sponsored Chinese New Year celebrations being held at a public venue in Phuket such as at Saphan Hin or at Sanaam Chai in Phuket Town, this year the event was held at the Central Festival Floresta shopping mall – the same venue where Governor Phakaphong also chose to hold his monthly “Governor Meets the Press” media briefing on Monday.
Also present for the event yesterday evening was Noppadon Pakprot, who serves as the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for Domestic Marketing.
In addition to the Chinese New Year announcements, Governor Phakaphong pointed out that the event also formally celebrated the Thai government’s recognition of 44 years of diplomatic relations with China.
The event in Phuket yesterday was the only event in the South to mark the occasion, he said.
The TAT together with Central Pattana Public Company Limited (CPN), which operates the mega-mall, organised its “Great Chinese New Year campaign 2019” under the banner “The Legend of Wealth”, noted a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department.
The official PR Dept report also noted, “Central Festival Phuket shopping center creates a shopping experience with The Great Chinese Market by gathering famous restaurant in Phuket to be in one place with many special promotions during the Chinese New Year.”
Regardless, the state-sponsored festivities included paying homage to an icon of Ama Pud Jor for “prosperity of life” and to an image of the Chinese god Tai Sia Aei that was brought from Jui Tui Shrine, the main Chinese Shrine in Phuket Town.
Special performances by performers brought in from China included a kung fu acrobatics show by martial artists from Shandong, a puppet show by artists from Fujian and dance performances from Qiandongnan in Guizhou province, and a lion dance.
Visitors were also treated to free tasting of “the largest Hokkien noodles in Phuket” and special performances by celebrities and artists including Baifern Pimchanok, Ice Sarunyu and the band Jetset'er.
Earlier yesterday, Airports of Thailand (AoT) management and staff at Phuket International Airport held their own welcome ceremony for Chinese tourists arriving on the island yesterday at another event attended by TAT Phuket Chief Ms Kanokkittika.
Thanee Chuangchoo ,General Manager of Phuket International Airport, along with guests and staff welcomed Chinese tourists arriving on Thai Lion Air Flight SL 973 from Nanjing with 209 passengers and seven crew, as well as Nok Air Flight DD 3125 from Nanning (the capital of Guangxi province near the Vietnam border) with 185 passengers and seven crew.
The arrivals were treated to a dance performance by the Wu-Chu-Pu-Cheng-Chia troupe.
At the Governor Meets the Press media briefing on Monday Phuket TAT Chief Ms Kanokkittika assured that Phuket “was still bustling” with tourists, giving the dates for the Chinese New Year festivities as from Feb 5-12.
“The average occupancy rate will be at 88.47%, an increase of 2.86%. There will be more than 520,441 visitors and the expected income will be approximately ‘approximately’ (sic) B12.409.48 billion,” she said, according to a report by the PR Dept Phuket office.
“Most tourists are Chinese, Russian, Malaysian and Australian, respectively, and the Indian market has significantly increased in this year,” she added.
The most crowded areas for tourists are the beaches in Phuket. Most tourists are choosing to stay at the beach (Patong, Kata, Karon) resulting in a high rate of occupancy in the beach area around 90%, said Ms Kanokkittika, according to the report.
“This year will be bustling more than last year as Chinese tourists still choose Phuket as the top tourist destination in Thailand,” she said.
Ms Kanokkittika on Monday also announced that as part of this year’s Chinese New Year activities “the second activity” is “The 20th Chinese New Year, the past of Phuket Town" to be held in the Phuket Old Town area Feb 10-12, organised by Phuket Municipality together with various agencies in Phuket.
Effectively, the decades-old Phuket Old Town Festival this year has been rebranded to be the “20th Phuket’s Old Town Chinese New Year”. (See here.)
The festival includes the “Lantern Festival” (Yuan Xiao), with Chinese lanterns hung throughout the old quarter from Jan29 through Feb 19.
“This helps to promote tourism in Phuket,” she said.
“The Chinese New Year festival in Phuket will be a good opportunity to publicise the image of Phuket through the Chinese people who will come to Phuket in order to test tourism products and join the event, as well as to highlight the close relations between China and Thailand,” Ms Kanokkittika added.