Market research by C9 HotelWorks, the asset management and hospitality consultant company, said the low season in Phuket, normally between May and October, was not so sleepy last year.
During the first nine months of 2011, the hotel occupancy rate in Phuket was more than 70%, up from 59% the same period in 2010, while Bangkok was at 62%, up from 52%, and Chiang Mai stayed unchanged at 45%.
The Accor chain sees bright prospects for Phuket as tourists from mainland China, India, Russia, and Singapore flock there even during the low season.
Mainland Chinese tourists were the largest group of visitors in the first half of last year with 103% growth to almost 150,000 from the same period the year before. They overtook Australians, the largest tourist group since 2005, while Russians grew by 109% to almost 150,000.
Accor will introduce the 303-room Novotel Phuket Vintage Park on March 1 and the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach in the third quarter of this year, as the fourth property under the Pullman label in Thailand.
“Phuket still has potential to grow, especially during the so-called green season [low season]. Patong remains the hub of Phuket tourism by demand and room numbers, and has shown solid year-round growth in occupancy during the past four years,” said Paul Stevens, the director of operations for Accor Thailand.
He added the challenge is to expand demand during the green season beyond Patong into other areas of Phuket.
Accor expects the number of rooms and tourists will increase in the coming low season.
“Phuket remains a desired destination for much of Europe and Asia, and a brand which could be sold year-round,” Mr Paul said.
As of June 2011, 33,306 hotel rooms or 76% of the total supply on Phuket were on the west coast of the island. Patong houses 61% of the total hotel rooms. New destinations are on the east coast such as Koh Siray, Cape Panwa and Cape Yamu, which now have 851 rooms.
Sopa Sorn-In, director of sales and marketing for Novotel Phuket Vintage Park, said that although the average room rate during the green season is 40-60% lower than the high season, reservations remain healthy for the whole year.
“I think the average room rate in Phuket should increase this year. Three- and four-star hotels have much room to grow, thanks to demand from emerging markets like China and India, as their rates are affordable.
The older Novotel Phuket Resorta remains fully booked until the end of February,” Ms Sopa said.
Luxury hotels in Phuket account for 12% of all accommodations, mid-priced hotels 56%, budget 12% and 20% are others such as serviced apartments.