A rising number of direct flights from mainland China is helping the Thai island of Koh Samui fill the gaps in its traditionally seasonal tourism sector, a new report has found.
According to the latest Samui Hotel Market Update from C9 Hotelworks, both direct flights to the island and new services to Surat Thani Airport, the closest secondary gateway, have led to a sharp rise in Chinese visitors to Samui. This, according to the report, means that mainland Chinese travellers are now “filling in the gaps of a once highly seasonal destination”.
As a result, island-wide hotel occupancy hit 72% in 2016 and airport arrivals pushed over the 1.2 million threshold.
Much of the momentum can be attributed to Bangkok Airways’ international expansion, which has shifted in focus from Southeast Asia to North Asia. In the second quarter of this year the carrier will increase flights to Samui to Chengdu to a daily service, and it is expected to add Chongqing at a later date. A THB1 billion (US$28 million) upgrade of Samui International Airport is also expected to commence this year.
“Samui’s airlift is no longer a one trick pony with the emergence of nearby Surat Thani as a secondary gateway. Flight arrivals last year to the latter spiked up by 30% and are forecasted to grow further in 2017,” said Bill Barnett of C9 Hotelworks.
“Just as we have seen the twin airport story in Bangkok play out with Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, the “plug and play” model for the resort-led market of Samui is benefitting from both strong domestic and international trajectory from Bangkok Airways, but also the low-cost carrier rapid fire expansion in Surat Thani,” he added.
The report added that while the rise of low-cost arrivals has not reduced average hotel rates, there are signs of a shift in the demand. “With the steady growth of airlift to Surat Thani Airport, Samui is expected to attract a broader market of midscale and upscale segments with pipeline hotels weighted toward these types of products,” it stated.