CAPACITY at Phuket International Airport is expected to reach critical levels this year with the thriving tourist destination expected to handle a staggering nine million passengers in 2012, according to a report released by C9 Hotelworks.
C9 Hotelworks managing director and publisher ThePhuketInsider, Bill Barnett
The airport is officially capable handling a total of 6.5 million passengers per year but the extraordinary growth of Phuket has propelled arrival numbers way beyond expectations and there are increasing fears of overcrowding and disruption to services.
Last year the airport already exceeded stated capacity by 30 per cent with a total of 8.4 million passengers travelling through the terminal, and while the Thai government recently reignited a $USD180 million expansion plan including the addition of a new international terminal, the anticipated completion date is not until 2015.
C9 Hotelworks' Hotel Market Update 2011 also reported that island-wide accommodation occupancy was 75 per cent for the year - in another milestone for the destination.
C9 Hotelworks managing director, Bill Barnett commented that in a year underscored by global media attention on Bangkok's political crisis, Brand Phuket had continued to swim upstream with a remarkable sense of demand driven agility.
But despite the new historical highs, there is a paradoxical progression of mass tourism, with the surge in demand creating issues for the destination's famed infrastructure.
"Clearly planning is behind the 8 ball with a 2015 date now firmly on the horizon. But with the upgrade only set to accommodate 12.5 million passengers, the new airport may be redundant by the time it hits the market," said Mr Barnett.
One of Phuket's major regional competitors Bali is seeing a fast track expansion of a new terminal for overseas passengers now set to open in time for APEC 2013. According to the airport authority at Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar, once completed the facility will be able to accommodate 25 million travellers.
C9 Hotelworks' Hotel Market Update 2011 shows that more direct airline access from abroad is reflected in Australia, China and Eastern Europe now commanding a 32 per cent share of the international marketplace.
Analyzing the precarious growth model that Phuket is following Barnett added: "Effective destination management rather than marketing is at the heart of the matter and what is required for the island to achieve long-term sustainable growth.
"A national government agenda is urgently needed to address growing transportation, rising crime and regulatory issues. By 2015 the total rooms on the island are forecast to exceed 50,000."