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Thailand’s Surf Town: A Haven for Tourism Start-Ups

Category: Hotels|Tourism, Posted:12 Aug 2023 | 16:40 pm

As Southern Thailand’s Andaman coast experiences the onset of the rainy monsoon season, the vibrant surf culture in Khao Lak comes alive. At the heart of this burgeoning aqua sports scene is the famed Memories Beach in Pakarang, drawing an excited blend of both Thai and international travelers.

The surf scene in Khao Lak has flourished in recent years, with a significant contribution from trailblazers like Bert Berger, the visionary behind Sunova Surfboards. Back in 2016, the company relocated its factory to this region, kickstarting a trend. Presently operating under The Board Factory, this successful start-up has expanded its horizons beyond surfboards to encompass SUPs, windsurfs, and kiteboards. Visitors stepping in are greeted by an exhilarating skatepark, setting the stage for an engaging factory tour.

No visit to Memories Beach is complete without basking in the shade and savoring refreshments or a meal at the Karkinos Beach Club. The club’s sustainable design, incorporating natural materials and a sand bar, is an Instagram-worthy attraction. The genius behind this awe-inspiring Mad Max/Robinson Crusoe structure is none other than Phuket architect Joe Sanya from Architects11, making it the go-to destination for the quintessential West Coast sunset experience.

GARANG Artisan Ice Cream, another local start-up sensation, has triumphed in this landscape. Here, gelato is meticulously handcrafted, incorporating local flavors that pay homage to the essence of Khao Lak. Situated in Bangsak, the vibrant, colorful shop boasts boho-chic interiors and surf-inspired artwork, creating a distinct neighborhood ambiance.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Khao Lak experienced an influx of Thai visitors, including the trendy denizens of Bangkok who embraced the art of surfing at Memories Beach. Presently, the area is swiftly transitioning into an urban retreat and a favored destination for small-scale start-up tourism ventures. This revival is backed by robust economic foundations, where off-beach land just a short 2-3 minute drive away from the shore costs around THB4-5 million per rai. In contrast, the property prices in Phuket have soared to THB10-15 million per rai or even more.

What’s clearly evident to these emerging businesses is the shared advantages of airport accessibility, captivating West-facing sunsets, and pristine stretches of white sand beaches that rival those of the neighboring tourism behemoth, Phuket. The Khao Lak and Phang Nga Hotel Market Update Report by C9 Hotelworks reveals that despite approximately 10,000 registered hotel rooms, supply and demand remain favorable. The entry of international hotel chains has also paved the way for specialized opportunities for smaller properties.

Two segments poised for substantial growth are boutique hotels catering to surf and outdoor enthusiasts, as well as long-stay villa estates offering a resort-like experience. Compared to other Thai beach-focused destinations, Khao Lak presents lower barriers to entry in the market.

Journeying to Khao Lak has been made incredibly convenient with the introduction of a four-lane highway, significantly shortening the travel time from Phuket International Airport to just over an hour. A notable stop on this journey is 076 at Thai Muang. This enchanting garden oasis pays tribute to Phang Nga’s agricultural heritage, seamlessly combining a café, relaxing spaces, and locally inspired shopping. The brainchild of Sii Eawsakul, a prosperous internet entrepreneur and luxury travel aficionado hailing from the region, this labor of love serves as a homage to her roots.

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