The number of Indian tourists coming to Thailand has been on the rise over the past few years, and this year weighs in as the fifth largest source market for tourists, with 919,130 arrivals from from Jan 1 to Sept 30 this year compared with 811,644 for the same period last year, a growth of 13.24%.
That is a far cry from the 6.8 million visitors from China during the same period, up 21.44% year-on-year and still behind Korea, Malaysia and Laos, but Indian arrivals so far this year already outnumber those from Japan (908,059, +5.62% y-o-y) and from Russia (900,712), and are more than double those from Australia (463,164, -1.82%).
Yet, as Phuket hoteliers have long reported, the Indians who come to Phuket tend to travel in self-organised groups, and they spend – a much welcome factor.
However, the postulation by Royal Phuket Marina Chairman Gulu Lalvani that he would not be surprised if tourist arrivals from India to Phuket outnumber Chinese tourists within three years brings a word of caution.
Despite the prediction given, the number of Indian arrivals has a long way to go to surpass the Chinese and even if it does have the potential, does Phuket really want that number of new tourists from anywhere considering the stress on the environment major tourism sites are already under?
A cursory glance would indicate that Phuket might not even be able to environmentally support that volume of tourism.
Worse, with the focus remaining solely on tourism, very little has been done to support development in any other sectors on the island. Phuket is long past agriculture as a mainstay, the fishing and other primary sectors are driven by migrant labour, and the appalling state of the island’s infrastructure has rightfully failed to lure any other major investors in service industries.
We can’t blame investors for not coming. The state of the roads, the poor drainage including the lack of major sewerage systems in high density areas, not to mention the ongoing scheduled electricity blackouts and water shut-offs while workers carry out maintenance or “upgrade” the existing networks is enough to deter anyone who wants a reliable, functioning operation.
The country can get by with Phuket as a ‘tourism only’ province, but Phuket can’t if anything goes horribly wrong. Short of natural disasters, the greatest threat Phuket faces is a tourism meltdown.
To that, any moves that help Phuket add at least a second string to its bow are most welcome.