My big question is what happened to the Phuket I first visited in 1988? You know, the little tropical island I used to tootle along on my rental scooter along dusty red dirt roads on? Now it's all multi-laned expressways, mega-malls, and Las Vegas envy. Which seems to suit most people fine.
Chatting with Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, the director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (Phuket), she seemed happy that the tourists were back. I can vouch for that -- my flight here was so full it was standing room only. And the Anantara Resort (did I mention pool villas yet?) is running 100% this weekend. And, judging by the number of coaches double parked at Phuket FantaSea last night, I'm not Robinson Crusoe here.
'Special interest groups, more high end, wedding groups -- we're getting more popular with pool villa rooms and luxurious rooms that wedding groups like,' Khun Bagornrat said.
It seems that the Tsunami and various incidents are yesterday's news here with 5 million tourists in 2008, and probably only 12% fewer this year (below the national average of around 20%). 'It's not a nightmare, but it's been a bad dream for the past year, ' said Nampetch Tipaxsorn, marketing communications mananger for Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa. 'But then we had sweet dreams for so long, so this forces us to give more to the customer; not lower rates but more service, more value-added.'
In the next week I'll be blogging on some top-end Phuket experiences: luxuriating in pool villas, golfing at Blue Canyon, a night out at Phuket FantaSea.
Now if you'll just excuse me. I just need to cool off in the pool ... attached to my master bedroom of course. It's not easy being me!