Hotels in Thailand have been forced to cut down prices with rooms left vacant and beaches struggling for visitors with a drop in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.
Known for its beaches and nightlife, Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok and tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product with Chinese tourists making more than a quarter of total arrivals.
But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, numbers for January-September were down almost a fifth on-year.
Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen around 10 percent against the yuan this year.
A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers has also scared some off.
Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.
Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.
A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.
It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25 percent on-year in the first seven months.
But for now, the lower arrivals are evident on the streets of Phuket.