Government has huge plans to turn Phuket into a world-class tourism hub


The Thai government plans to invest heavily in transforming Phuket into a world-class tourism hub, according to news website.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's team visited Phuket and Phang Nga for the second time on September 29, just a month after their initial visit on August 25-26. This signals a clear commitment to expedite various projects with a budget in trillions of baht, aiming to elevate Phuket to a global city, stimulate tourism, and become a centre for spreading prosperity to the Andaman region, Thansettakij reported.

The strategy to elevate Phuket to a global city in the 2023-27 Provincial Development Plan focuses on diversifying the local economy, and not relying solely on tourism as in the past. Before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, Phuket had welcomed 14.5 million foreign tourists, generating revenue of 422 billion baht, ranking second after Bangkok. The province's gross domestic product was 251 billion baht. However, the pandemic inflicted a severe blow on Phuket, as 97% of its revenue came from tourism. Although tourism in Phuket is expected to recover rapidly and potentially reach 100% recovery in 2024, the lessons learned from Covid-19 led to a shift in Phuket's tourism strategy.

The five-year plan focuses on seven key objectives to generate new income for Phuket:

1. Become a global culinary hub (city of gastronomy)

2. Be a centre for global health and medical tourism (medical & wellness hub)

3. Sports tourism development (sport tourism)

4. Be an international education hub

5. Create value through digital technology (smart city)

6. Become a hub for marine tourism (marina hub)

7. Be a centre for processing and trading tuna in the Asean region, as well as generate revenue from MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) activities.

Additionally, the plan aims to promote wellness tourism under the Andaman International Health and Wellness Centre project, a collaboration between the International Health College, Songklanagarind Hospital (Phuket), and the Digital Dental Center of Songklanagarind. The project received a budget approval of 5.1 billion baht on October 11, 2022, with an urgent need to expedite the allocation of funds for the project, Thansettakij said.

Infrastructure development plays a crucial role in achieving these goals. Prime Minister Srettha has been continuously overseeing the acceleration of the transportation infrastructure development plan, which includes seven projects with a combined investment of 148 billion baht, both short-term and long-term, focusing on promoting Andaman tourism.

One of the urgent projects is the "new city - Koh Kaew island - Patong tunnel project”. The budget for this project is 14.67 billion baht, divided into land and construction costs of 5 billion baht and tunnel construction costs of 8.89 billion baht.

The project was initially open to private sector participation, but due to lack of interest the government has decided to invest in the civil works portion of the project. The government will coordinate this project with the "new city - Koh Kaew - Kathu" expressway project, which has been studied, designed, and is currently undergoing legal procedures. This project will require a budget of approximately 35 billion baht to address traffic issues, Thansettakij reported.

Projects related to the handling capacity of three Andaman coast airports include:

1. Expanding the Phuket International Airport (2nd phase). This project will increase the airport’s capacity to handle passengers from 12.5 million to 18 million people a year. An investment of 6.21 billion baht is required, and it is expected to be completed by 2027.

2. Expanding the Krabi International Airport. This project focuses on increasing passenger capacity to 17 million people annually, from the current 5 million with an investment of 2.7 billion baht.

3. Construction of Phang Nga International Airport. Also known as Andaman International Airport, this project is located in Tambon Kok Kloy, Amphur Takua Thung, Phang Nga province, covering an area of about 2,372 acres. It involves diverting a significant portion of the land previously used for government purposes. The airport is designed to handle 40 million passengers a year and requires an investment of 80 billion baht. According to the plan, land expropriation will be completed within 18 months. Airports of Thailand Plc is expected to take approximately seven years to construct the airport.

This comprehensive plan aims to transform Phuket into a diversified and sustainable economy, not solely reliant on tourism, ensuring long-term economic stability for the province, Thansettakij said.