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The Next Big Thing

Category: , Posted:06 Jun 2007 | 12:00 pm

Writing this column is a great icebreaker when I meet people. Without a doubt, two questions I am asked the most are "So, what's the next big trend?" or "What little known spot will be tomorrow's real estate success story?" Lacking a crystal ball or a genie in a lamp, most of us mere mortals have to rely on research, putting in a fair bit of road time and those key intangibles – good timing and even better luck.

Certainly Phuket, and what is becoming known as "Greater Phuket" – including Phang Nga, Krabi and their islands – is bursting at the seams. Up north over the bridge Ko Pilai and Tah Sai have seen some of the largest land transactions in recent months.Bolstered by brand names such as Raffles moving into the area, it's certain to be a significant hotel and residential market in the medium term. Thai Muang with its golf course and its marina potential is poised for redevelopment.

Further north, Khao Lak, despite its long stretches of white sand beaches and growing number of hotel projects, which are a key property indicator, has not yet experienced a property boom. If any area has the critical mass for tourism and infrastructure it's going to be Khao Lak in the years to come.

Will things move even further north to Takuapa or to the top of Phang Nga Bay, just head over the bridge and turn right? There are huge undeveloped areas with stunning views of Phang Nga Bay just a short boat ride to Phuket's Yacht Haven.

Krabi, with its large new hotel developments in Klong Muang and Haad Yao's "The Cove at Krabi", with its multiple hotels, golf course, condos and villas, is looking to be Thailand's next Laguna-style integrated destination resort.With its international airport, eco-friendly focus – no jet skis, and no power poles erected along the beachfront – and with considerable tourist attractions it's still in the early development phase for the property business.

Head south and Koh Lanta is quickly playing catch up with well-regarded resorts such as Pimalai Bay, Layana and Costa Lanta attracting more and more guests looking for new experiences. The Scandinavian sun seekers have moved quickly into the area with housing developments, businesses and even schools aimed at attracting those escaping the harsh Nordic winters.Off Koh Lanta, Koh Jom is already offering investment properties aimed at resort-type developments. Meanwhile the white sand beaches of Trang are starting to attract both resort and property developers.

In Phang Nga Bay there is a distinct allure to islands offering both unparalleled privacy and adventure. Traditionally this was the realm of day-trippers visiting James Bond Island but the scene is rapidly changing.Jumeirah's Private Island Resort in Ao Por, The Village Coconut Island on Koh Maphrao and the Taj Exotica on Koh Lone all offer mixed-use, brand-managed properties for sale. Suddenly developers are looking far and wide for island land.

Even in our own backyard, Patong, where there has been relatively few mid- and upper-range real estate developments in the past few years, there are over 1,000 new branded hotel rooms opening by the end of this year.Operators such as Millennium out of Singapore and European hotelier Accor, bringing the Mercure and Ibis brands, are leading the international charge. Transactions and new high-end development launches look to be on the rise over the next few months.One of the newest innovative properties, the BYD Lofts, have proved that buyers will pay premiums above the existing market.

So whether you go north or south, east, or west – the world of Greater Phuket is indeed a chameleon continuing to evolve and change. Tastes and products change, location preferences shift, while older locations shed their skins and remake themselves.As to what's the next big thing, it could be a distant journey away or just around the corner, but get out there and explore. You just might be surprised at what you'll find.

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