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Samui expects drop in European numbers

January 27, 2011

European tourist arrivals to Koh Samui will drop by 20% this year, due mainly to the continent’s financial crisis, predicts the Tourism Association of Koh Samui.


International tourist arrivals on Samui numbered 780,000 last year, with 80% from Europe. This year’s figure is expected to stay about the same, as arrivals from other destinations such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore will offset the expected decline from Europe.

European tourists will make up only 60% or 468,000 of this year’s total.

“The European market will surely drop. One big tour agent, Best Tours Belgium, went bankrupt recently, and operators in Bangkok, Phuket and Samui could not get their money refunded. This was as much as 200 million baht,” said association president Bannasat Ruangjan.

He said a few small tour agents in Austria and Hungary had also closed, so Samui must seek new markets.

Mr Bannasat urged Thai operators to be more careful when dealing with European partners but admitted that could be difficult since many have worked together for more than 10 years.

During the current January-February high season, average hotel occupancy on the island is forecast at 70%, down from 90% in the past. For the full year, occupancy will be less than 50%.

Mr Bannasat said that even though the number of flights to Samui has increased, the total number of seats remains 3,000 per day as the aircraft are smaller. Airfares have increased to 5,300 baht for a one-way ticket from Bangkok, from 4,700 baht in the past.

Last year, 20 hotels with a combined 300 rooms opened on the island, bringing the total to 17,000 rooms. Only four or five new hotels are expected this year.

Room tariffs will drop significantly this year. For example, a night in a five-star hotel will drop to an average of 5,000 baht from 5,800 baht last year.

He said that did not include the large number of serviced apartments, single houses and condominiums for rent, so the oversupply will become much clearer this year.

“We’re also facing many other problems. Today’s international tourists are concerned about global warming and so prefer ecotourism. But many tourist attractions on Koh Samui are dilapidated. Improved law enforcement would help solve the problem,” he said, adding that the government must make a serious effort to control construction, wastewater treatment and city planning on the island.

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