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By on Jan 17, 2008 in Research, Resorts

Phuket has outperformed itself in terms of hotel occupancy and arrivals even in last year’s low season. From a highly seasonal tourist destination, worldwide appeal has transformed Phuket into a year-round destination, with a 70% average annual hotel occupancy. This high season is undoubtedly one of the busiest Phuket has seen. Phuket International Airport currently handles up to 287 international flights per week, while many hotels and airlines remain fully booked until March this year.

Samui, Phuket’s boutique rival, has also experienced an inflow of visitors as the island’s accessibility has improved resulting from Bangkok Airway’s expansion. The airline now operates daily direct flights to Hong Kong and Singapore and twenty flights to Bangkok. Further growth is expected as higher capacity aircrafts are now able to land in Samui. THAI Airways planes will also be able to operate two daily flights between Bangkok and Samui and opening Samui Airport to two main carriers. The aircraft seat capacity on international flights is expected to rise by 62% to accommodate the increasing demand. This could produce over 2 million airport arrivals in 2008.

“The improved airlift in Samui will be a key factor in supporting the growth of its property market. CB Richard Ellis expects increased demand for homes here,” said Ms. Prakaipeth Meechoosarn, CB Richard Ellis Samui Manager. CB Richard Ellis remains confident in the long term prospects of the Thai resort property markets. In 2007, CB Richard Ellis opened two new offices in Samui and Pattaya as part of our plan to expand our resort property network throughout Thailand.

2007 land prices continue to rise although there were reduced numbers of individual transactions mainly due to the Foreign Business Act (FBA) uncertainty in Q1 2007. In Phuket, there were no significant changes in the number of completed land transactions, however transaction values from Q1 to Q3 2007 totaled an estimated of THB 6,900 million, a 6.7% reduction compared to Q1 to Q3 2006. A similar trend is reflected in Samui whereby the monthly average transacted value is estimated at THB 413 million in 2007, compared to an average of THB 450 million in 2006. Post election, reports of viewings and bookings of resort properties from our agency team shows a clear uplift in transactions.

Land price in Thailand’s coastal areas continues to grow unabated and indicate the strength of the market and long term prospects. The Treasury Department’s recent appraisal of land value shows that land prices in Phuket have increased on average a 160% in the past four years, with Samui prices following closely. Beachfront plots on Phuket’s west coast are transacting at THB 21 up to 50 million per rai, with the exception at Patong which has recently achieved THB 200 million per rai. Samui beachfront land prices are also trailing closely at THB 15 million per rai.

“There is sustained interest in the Thai resort properties market reflected through the ever increasing number of enquiries through our three resort offices. We are seeing more activity in Phuket this high season and our sales team is busy with closing sales,” said Ms. Charlotte Filleul, CB Richard Ellis General Manager – Resort Property.

Phuket’s property market is no longer confined to the regional market. The increasing focus on luxury developments has extended the island’s appeal to the global market. The growth of Phuket’s yachting and marina industry is a key part in drawing in the well-heeled investors and positioning the island as the yachting capital of Asia. Phuket now has a total of 800 yacht berths and five marinas. There are currently at least five luxury yachts cruising in Phuket this week.  The international lifestyle Phuket offers is clearly driving the growth of its luxury property market.

Out of the 124 villa projects actively marketing in Phuket, the high-end market (over USD 1 million) still accounts for less than 15% of the total supply. The supply of luxury villas is actually limited, but there is a growing number of projects on the drawing board which as they come to the market will offer more choices to buyers who are searching for their right property. CB Richard Ellis has at least 500 serious enquiries for property in the USD 2 to 5 million price range, where potential buyers have not yet found their ideal property.

The market has performed well at this end with little unsold completed properties. Cape Sienna on the Kamala shoreline is one of CB Richard Ellis’s most successful sole agent projects in 2007. All 10 villas have been booked prior to launch.  Saisawan on Bangtao beach is another unique villa project launching in 2008. Saisawan is designed to provide the ultimate beach lifestyle for the elite global market. The four bedroom villas feature a private 25 meter infinity pool, private gym and spa and a personal butler service. The development scores highly on all criteria- sunset views, absolute beach frontage, accessibility and design.

Phang Nga, part of Greater Phuket is also becoming an important centre of development as it is an attractive alternative to some of Phuket’s busy beaches. An increasing number of developments are being planned along this part of Andaman’s serene coastline, from Natai beach just across the Sarasin Bridge from Phuket and expanding up to Thai Muang. The beauty of the area and its proximity to Phuket International Airport are strong pulling factors for International and Thai investors who are banking on Phang Nga’s boom.

In 2007, CB Richard Ellis has completed three major land transactions in the Phang Nga area. A 193 rai site was acquired by Kingdom Hotels Investment through CB Richard Ellis for Raffles Resort and Residences. Other land deals completed include the Thai Muang Golf Course, one of the biggest transactions in the Phuket area this year. This vast 1,000 rai site will be re-developed into a mix-use resort.

“Phang Nga is a hot destination for investors this year. There are several prime sites still available and suitable for large scale resort developments at prices that are significantly cheaper than Phuket. Beachfront land in Phang Nga is priced in the region of THB 5 to 20 million per rai, depending on location and size. In Phuket, it is very rare to find a beachfront plot for sale as most prime sites are already occupied and developed,” said Ms. Khanitha Jarukirati, Associate Director of Investment and Land Services at CB Richard Ellis Phuket.

Samui is also catching up with Phuket in the luxury villas market. Whilst 70% of the villa supply in Samui is priced below USD 1 million, CB Richard Ellis is witnessing more developments launching in the USD 2 to 3 million price mark. As the luxury villas sector in Samui emerges, there is evidence that prices are moving to a level that is up to par with Phuket, at least for the top end of the market.

Another positive move for the Samui market is the entrance of professional local developers backed by foreign joint venture partners. Previously, many of the developers in Samui were smaller players and are often under funded. The arrival of international hotel brands such as W, Conrad, Four Seasons, and Park Hyatt is adding credibility to the island and attracting quality investors. Samui has been traditionally associated to a low key beach destination, however this is changing rapidly. 

In the coming years, CB Richard Ellis expects an increasing supply of branded residences. In Phuket, branded residences under development include Shangri-La Villas in Bangtao. Other developments in the pipeline include TAJ Exotica in Koh Lone, Park Hyatt and Capella in Emerald Bay, Four Seasons in Rawai and Dusit and Raffles Residences in Phang Nga. Samui is following a similar trend with the launch of The Estates at Four Seasons and Conrad Residences. One of Samui’s most exclusive developments to launch in 2008 through CB Richard Ellis is W Retreat and Residences with prices ranging from THB 65 to 205 million. Another branded residence under planning is Park Hyatt located in Thong Krut Bay.

Whilst there appears to be an influx of branded residences launching, in fact the volume each year is quite limited. The exclusive nature of branded residences often impose restrictions in the volume of unit and such projects demand a thorough design development phase, hence CB Richard Ellis does not expect all projects to hit the market at the same time period. With a steady flow of projects launching and a sustainable level of demand, the market is expected to perform well and absorb the new supply in the long term. The association of luxury brands to residences will also help strengthen Phuket and Samui’s position in the international resort property market.

Looking ahead in 2008, CB Richard Ellis expects a long term growth in the Thai resort property markets. The general election held on December 23rd 2007 marks the return to democracy and puts the country back on the path to economic and political progress. “The property market has been subdued in 2007. Although the general election is not a miracle cure to Thailand’s problems, we do expect a clear and positive policy towards foreign investment from the democratically elected government. This should play a significant role in bringing confidence back to the market,” concluded Mr. David Simister, Chairman of CB Richard Ellis Thailand.

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