A fresh Look At Kamala
For some reason Kamala remains an enigma in the Phuket property market. Despite being home to arguably the most multi-million-dollar villas on the island, Kamala is rarely mentioned in the same breath as its higher-profile neighbors Surin and Bang Tao. Historically the area pioneered two of the first high-end developments with Kamala Estate and Laem Son Villas, while at the other end of the pricing spectrum The Club and Kamala Hills showed there was a growing market for more affordable apartments.
Over the years the area has been extremely popular with certain segments of the tourist demographic, with Germans and other Europeans returning year after year to a number of locally-operated resorts and guesthouses.Larger-scale, internationally run resorts such as the Kamala Bay Terrace Resort never quite established themselves. One exception is the Kamala Garden Resort, which has drawn a large Scandinavian base of longer-staying guests, attracted by large, suite-type rooms.
With tourism being a mainstay of the local Kamala economy, the arrival of Phuket FantaSea and its establishment as one of Phuket's prime attractions increased the tourist traffic in the area by leaps and bounds.
With the start of the property boom, projects such as The Plantation and Jomchang were early entrants and the much-vaunted "Millionaires' Mile" on the headland became a sought-after location, with stunning oceanfront developments such as Ayara Kamala, Waterfall Bay and Cape Sol.
While the tsunami had its impact on local businesses, at the forefront of the recovery was the Aqua development as it was sold to Allan Zeman's group, which has redeveloped the project into its current Andara incarnation.
Next came the sale of the Kamala Bay Terrace Resort to Gary Murray's Destination Properties, which will renovate and expand the hotel as an upper-tier property managed by the Alila chain. The same group recently acquired the Kamala Garden Resort, which is being refurbished and reportedly to be managed by an international brand. Zeman's Paradise group continues to invest heavily in the area with the expansion of the Andara residential estate and the development of a high-end boutique hotel to be integrated into the project.
While some projects such as The Coolwater and Kamala Hills Naka have been slow in developing, there are continued new offerings to the market such as the mid-range Kamala Regent, which is creating quite some interest. Looking at the future developments in the area, there are certain barriers to entry that will dictate the changing landscape.
For tourism, there are only a limited number of sites available for large-scale hotel and mixed use developments. One such site is at the northern end of Kamala Bay and extends back into the hills; while other sites are on the Kamala headland. Given the geography and price of land in these areas, future developments would be upper-tier hotels or residential estate developments. It's doubtful that mass tourism will ever be a factor in the area, which certainly maintains a unique quality and character.
As future developments in the area are most likely to be high-end, once there is critical mass of these types of hotels and residential units, great commercial redevelopment in the beach area is almost a certainty.
From its humble beginning as a small seaside resort area and community, Kamala and its Millionaires' Mile seems poised to be at the top end of the property market for a very long time. It will be interesting to see how the area continues to refine itself with a large local population base, growing full-time expatriate population and high-end, jet-set visitors.