Twas the festive season, and all through Phuket Town, a jolly figure draped in red and white made an unexpected yet delightful appearance atop an ancient clock tower. Yes, you guessed it—Santa Claus had come to town, in the balmy, tropical paradise of Phuket, no less! A spectacle that mingled traditional Christmas cheer with the enchanting allure of Phuket Old Town, it marked not only the jubilant festivities but also the advent of the much-anticipated Discover Phuket Countdown 2024. The island was abuzz with excitement, the atmosphere as electrifying as the twinkling lights that adorned the streets. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Amidst this festive fervor, the ever-dynamic Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)’s Phuket office was cooking up plans to turn the ‘Land of Smiles’ into the ‘Island of Eternal Sunshine’, where the concept of a ‘low season’ would leap into the realm of lore. Spearheaded by the visionary office director Lertchai Wangtrakuldee, a strategy was set in motion, an encore of the triumphs of yesteryear when the island’s allure proved irresistible, luring in visitors by the millions and shattering economic forecasts with a tidal wave of 330 billion baht generated in the local coffers by November’s end.
“The recipe for our success is simple,” quipped Lertchai, with the air of a seasoned maestro,” We transformed the island into a perennial haven, casting away the curse of the ‘low season’. Last year unveiled this phenomenon when, even in the ber-months, our shores were swelled with wanderlust-filled souls after the April showers.”
Unveiling his map of dreams, he divulged plans for seducing a kaleidoscope of tourists from the vibrant markets of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam during the traditional lulls. Concurrently, the island would nurture its ties with the robust adventurers from Russia and Kazakhstan. “Our market will be a bountiful mosaic, we shan’t tether our fortunes to a singular star,” declared Lertchai.
But the Phuket magic wouldn’t just stop at its sandy borders. The director spoke of weaving long-stay visitors into the cultural tapestry of neighboring Shangri-las Phangnga and Krabi, expanding the bounty of the island.
The spotlights of Phuket’s tourism stage would shimmer on the community, welcoming wayfarers from colossal cruise ships, eager students diving into the linguistic ocean, and the intrepid Chinese travelers, dragons among tourists, venturing beyond the pack!
Bathing in the golden glow of the New Year, the island became a nexus of celebration and commerce, drawing over a quarter-million holiday revelers and watching more than 8 billion baht circulate among its jubilant inhabitants. Stratospheric numbers of Russians led the procession of international faces, while the island’s market tapestry expanded, vibrant and varied, each strand an important fiber in its economic fabric.
The hum of satisfaction resonated across Phuket’s sparkling resorts as the occupancy needle flirted with the 82% mark—a symphony of success that sang of a trebled turnover, echoing the halcyon days before the world had heard the term COVID. Rooms may not have been brimming to the brimstones, yet the revenue rivers flowed strong and true, nourishing the island without overwhelming its natural charm and grace.
Behold, in Phuket, preparations were already afoot for a cavalcade of events stretching to the auspicious April showers. The promise of the Chinese New Year’s firecrackers awaited, ready to light up the hearts of all who came seeking the taste, sounds, and iridescent joy of Thailand’s enchanting isle—Phuket.