Back to the Future, Luxury Looks East
The Phuket Gazette.
CRASH test dummies and pioneering voyages have one thing in common. The question mark at the end of their journey into uncertainty.
There have been many such voyages over the years which often took place in sailing boats.
Take Christopher Columbus for example. Perhaps in today's age he might have taken to the seven seas in a well-appointed superyacht.
As far as success in not falling off the end of the world, as many thought he would, there are those in Phuket relating to the east coast with the same disdain and resistance as Columbus' critics did.
West coast pride is nothing new; just look at those images of scantily clad vixens from Baywatch and indeed check out the guys from Entourage when they hit Venice Beach to chill, Hollywood style.
Postcard-perfect sunsets, long stretches of white sand beaches and non-stop partying all add up to bombastic pre-ordained sanctimonious posturing.
Meanwhile, somewhere on Phuket is a mad scientist strapped into a time-machine that is wired to Google Earth, gearing up to discover Phuket's next big tiling and what the future holds.
A domestication in the hotel development sector has seen a crushing onslaught of new mid-scale hotels on every comer of the island. It's like the iPad, suddenly everyone w ants one.
Unfortunately, most of these new contenders are like errant school children in that they haven't done their homework. In most cases financial models have only seen the backseat of the car, or have even found themselves in the boot instead of riding shotgun up front. Ego has replaced sound financial fundamentals.
While the mid-market heads for huge oversupply, the global financial crisis has tempered the luxury segment over an extended period and brought its pipeline into a state of slow motion. Reference the late Michael Jackson's moonwalk for tune trials.
Like a high-society drunk, zigzagging down Park Avenue looking for a place to lie down and rest, luxury's quest for a home is looking to upgrade out of the island's middle-class suburbia into something a bit more upper crust. Snobbish yes, but as any Wall Street banker will tell you, the rich are the exception rather than the rule.
Over the past few years, many tourism and property experts, myself included, have been of the opinion that across the Sarasin Bridge, extending into Phang Nga, they are developing in a very big way.
However, the restrictive zoning act for the southern part of Phuket's northern neighbor, which came into play earlier this year, has been an unexpected killjoy for developers along with a few new regulations.
While the north will continue, with small-scale projects, the evolution of the east coast and Phang Nga Bay islands is well underway.
This includes the recently opened Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa on Koh Sireh as w ell as the reported announcement of a new luxury mixed-use project, a four-star Sheraton that will open at Ao Makham next year and the long overdue Regent in Panwa.
Drumbeats of progress continue at Yamu and Jumeriah and are spreading with apparent prospects of a Taj Exotica in Koh Lon, redevelopment for Maithon Island and a further Rawai Four Seasons project.
The mad scientist who has just arrived back from future Phuket has seen all the developments going on, and can rest easy knowing that luxury may well have found a new home by then.