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Large numbers of tourists are annually drawn to southern Thailand’s resort island of Phuket, including affluent maritime travellers with personal yachts visiting the coastal province dubbed the Pearl of the Andaman.

Recently, worldwide yacht sales entrepreneurs and travel buyers voted Phuket as the ‘Best Asian Maritime Capital’ at the Asia Boating Award 2010 held in Hong Kong. Phuket was deemed Asia’s best centre for ocean travel, surpassing rivals Hong Kong, Singapore, and Italy.

Statistics from the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket office show that many tourists arrive at the island by sea, an expensive mode of travel. Some Bt10 billion (US$306 million) is brought into Phuket by maritime tourists every year, and the numbers are rising.

Not only is this resort island renowned its excellent service, but it also has a leading edge in terms of location as central point to connect with other destinations.

“Phuket is the centre for travellers to easily sail their yacht to other Asian cities. Marinas here readily provide conveniences to those who sail,” said Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, who heads the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s office here.

There are now six fully-functional standard yacht marinas in the province, all belonging to private companies with high-end services.

Phuket Tourist Association vice-president Bhuritt Maswongssa believes there should be a well-equipped standardised public marina similar to privately-owned facilities to attract more ocean travellers.

“If we have a public marina managed by local authorities like in other countries, management and services fees will become cheaper, and the marina will provide services to more yachts,” said Bhuritt.

Phuket has potential to attract more and more maritime travellers. It is now a question of how it will keep its standard and offer more conveniences to tourists in all aspects so that they will not want to choose other places as their destinations.

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