Panwa's Property Renaissance
Despite living in Phuket for six years, I rarely venture past Phuket City towards Cape Panwa. Over the past few years, I can count on one hand the times I've journeyed there. But a few days ago, despite taking a few wrong turns, I went out to look at what's happening with the area's property and hotel projects. I was astonished at the changes marking the landscape. The area is quickly playing catchup to boomtown Phuket City.
As often noted in my column, tourism and property go hand in hand and Panwa was one of the first areas developed during the infancy of the island's tourism economy. One of the highest-profile hotel-development stories is that of the renovation and upgrading of the former Panwaburi resort into a luxury enclave managed by the Conrad chain. While this project was delayed over a number of years, things are back on track and the property is now set to open under the Regent brand. A new Radisson Plaza property is sprouting up in close proximity.
A while back, a hotel on Khao Khad was acquired through global financial giant Lehmanns and was re-branded into one of the French chain Accor's core brand, Novotel. Now the hotel is being expanded and construction of additional rooms is underway. Nearby, Sri Panwa, developed by the Thai Charn Issara group, has been a notable success both as a high-end resort and managed pool-villa residential estate. One of the island's grand old dames, the Cape Panwa resort, continues to position itself upwards and maintains a loyal client?le of return guests.
With the introduction and branding of three large international hotel-management chains to the area's hotel inventory, along with well-regarded boutique properties such as Sri Panwa, the cape's profile is gearing itself up to attract the higher-end tourist dollar.Condo projects such as Bel Air Panwa were successfully sold and Sri Panwa has long been part of a much-envied competitive set that includes other luxury, mixed-use developments such as Trisara, Cape Yamu and Laguna Phuket.
Some of Phuket's first residential estates and high-end properties were located in the area. Despite this initial critical mass, the pace of development in Cape Panwa did not match that of much of the rest of the island during the past five years. It's a mystery how such an established residential market could become overlooked during the feeding frenzy that has been Phuket's real estate industry of recent memory.
Taking a drive through the area, I was impressed by the improvements that have taken place recently. Access through feeder roads off Chao Fa Rd and the island's major north-south artery have provided larger roads through to Saphan Hin and beyond. Newer projects, such as Two Villas, provide a breath of fresh air to the area's residential estates.
Driving the coastal road and taking time out at viewpoints, I couldn't help but notice the unique attributes of the cape's geography and stunning east-coast views. It almost has a Mediterranean feel to it.A long, winding road and views into the outlying areas – these are the cape's unique selling points that will stand the test of time.
For land with sea views, prices remain attractive for property developers, but the hilly terrain continues to present site-development and infrastructure challenges. Likewise, the availability of larger tracts of land for mixed-use hotels and estates, remains limited, hence there are some barriers to entry for significant new supply.
I suspect that a number of readers would share a similar experience to my own if they revisited the area. It certainly was an eye opener for me. All too often, we underestimate the quality and individuality that different parts of the island have to offer. Phuket remains blessed with its diversity and Cape Panwa is one of its most scenic neighborhoods.