Phuket’s “catch up” infrastructure
The Phuket branch of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reported in September 2013 that the first 11 months of the fiscal year that began in October 2012 recorded more than 10 million tourist arrivals in Phuket. The full fiscal year that ended in September 2013 is expected to show 12 million tourists visited the island in that year. TAT believes that in the next fiscal year the number of tourists will increase to 14 million that could see tourism income rising to at least THB 240 billion in fiscal 2014. These are impressive figures with an upward growing trend every year. So can Phuket’s current infrastructure cope with the ever increasing holiday makers to Phuket?
Currently there are several infrastructure projects being undertaken around the island, causing much moaning and groaning among Phuket residents about the horrendous traffic jams, especially during the morning and evening rush hour.
A couple of years ago, 20 minutes at an intersection in Phuket was referred to as a ‘traffic jam’, but now more than 20 minutes at the Darasamuth intersection (corner of Central Festival) is to be expected. Construction works are currently in progress to build an underpass at this intersection that it is hoped will ease traffic in that area on its completion later this year – but until then it’s more traffic congestion. To add to the traffic woes, the construction of another underpass at the Samkong intersection (corner of Tesco Lotus) began in mid-November (at the start of the high season, no less!) and is expected to complete in 2015.
Phuket International Airport took a while to gain its much needed expansion approval, which commenced work in September 2012 and will see capacity increase from 6.5 million to 12.5 million international and domestic passengers a year. The expansion works are currently still in progress, but by the next fiscal year (2014) the TAT is already predicting 14 million tourists – already surpassing the post-expansion capacity. Looks like the long queues at immigration counters will continue…
Several other projects are currently being commissioned and under consideration, one being the Patong tunnel that will cut through Kathu and is expected to start construction in 2017.The existing steep uphill and downhill road has seen many accidents with tourist laden buses due to brake failures. This very steep road is also dangerous to regular motorists, especially in the rainy season, when the road has little traction and motorcycles have been known to virtually slide down the hill.
All the above infrastructure works are “essential” to the future and growth of Phuket, even though it’s an continual game of catch-up to keep up with Phuket’s rapid growing.
The number of new residential projects by both Thai & foreign developers are continuously on the rise, which is only to be expected. To support future growth, the future projections and plans for Phuket are crucial to maintaining brand “Phuket” and hopefully both the local administration and central government recognise this and continue to give Phuket much needed support. EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written before the political protests reached current levels. Time will tell whether this political unrest has an negative effect on TAT’s ambitious 2014 predictions.