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Exile on Euro Street

Category: , Posted:18 Jun 2010 | 11:30 am

The Nation.
We've all heard of the Running of the Bulls, and being chased by the Bears of Wall Street, but now there is a new creature on the block, and we can hear the thundering of PIGS in the air.
Only in this case they are not the four-legged variety that offers up the morning rashers to complement the fried eggs and coffee. These are the melting down, economic basket cases of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Welcome to the euro zone.
Recent concerns over the depreciation of that mythical European currency are creating anxiety attacks for Phuket's hotels and property developers.
From its days as a sleepy backwater for backpackers in the 70s and 80s, right up to its current incarnation as the Asia Riviera, the island has held a major allure for Europeans who travel halfway around the world to stay for a week, a month, or forever.
Seasonality has played a big part in the hotel-trading scene over the past decade as the onset of winter brings a migration from the Continent, Scandinavia and the UK, come rain or shine. Areas such as Kata, Karon, Khao Lak and Krabi all see considerable spikes in occupancy, and for many of them there is a need to make a full year's profit in the compressed time frame of the peak period.
While Thailand struggles to achieve a tourism recovery, many operators are now looking further afield than their own two feet and are trying to anticipate what the next high season will bring.
As the Euro continues to meltdown and depreciate, and while the simply amazing, unsinkable Thai baht remains stable, there are mounting concerns that the market that once was a "sure thing" may now be in jeopardy.
The resort industry's twin – Phuket property – has shown the impact of the rapid depreciation of the British pound over the past three years.
As well as those two other "go to" real-estate markets of the past decade – Hong Kong and Singapore – the UK has fuelled much of the foreign-investment impetus in local residential product.
While much has been spoken and written about what truly generated the peak and then triggered the levelling off of the mid-decade boom, perhaps no other influence stands out like he devaluation of the British currency – barring, of course, the start of the political turmoil and then the global financial crisis.
Pound, by pound, by pound. That is what pulled the trigger.
So now we sit under our coconut trees in paradise, tanked up on cheap whisky, shiftless (we've lost track of what colour to wear so we've opted out) and eyes glued to CNBC and Bloomberg to watch the euro Titanic story unfold.

"Go global" is certainly the rallying cry for business these days, but even eyeing markets closer to home brings mounting concern as those "Cain and Abel" siblings North and South Korea make even the won look fallible.
For now, be it tourism or property, the rise and fall of legal tender in key markets looks like being a new measure of viability as we step into post-crisis Thailand 2.0. The race of stampeding livestock of all kinds seems set to become a part of our daily existence – at least for the foreseeable future.

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