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Phuket aims to become shopping paradise

Thailand`s southern resort province of Phuket plans to open two duty-free zones to attract more foreign tourists…

Thailand`s southern resort province of Phuket plans to open two duty-free zones to attract more foreign tourists. These planned shopping zones are expected to help boost Phuket’s tourism revenue by more than 25 percent, the provincial governor, Udomsak Assavarongkul.

The duty-free shops are being built, and should be completed by the end of this year, he said. Eighty percent of the resort island’s revenue comes from the tourism sector, according to Mr. Udomsak. But tourists to Phuket spend far less than visitors to Singapore, an island of comparable size, he explained.

Currently, Phuket’s tourism industry generates some 73 billion baht in revenue.

This is expected to rise to more than 100 billion a year after the two shopping zones are opened, the governor said. The provincial authorities are still seeking permission to open the two duty-free zones from the Customs Department.

Since low cost airlines started flying to Phuket recently, the number of tourists visiting the island resort has surged by more than 20 percent, said Patanapong Akevanich, President of Phuket Tourism business Association.Further growth is expected, he said.

Phuket is a major part of the government’s plans to boost the country’s tourism industry. The government wants to attract 20 million tourists in the next four years.

But the government should improve the overall management of the tourism sector, urged Mr. Patanapong, especially environmental protection.

Experts have warned, however, that a huge number of visitors poses a major potential threat to Phuket`s environment and ecology.

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