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C9 Hotelworks has compiled a comprehensive investment report on the Phuket economy. Covering key island economic data including tourism, hotels, real estate, key demand generators, and infrastructure, the report features key metrics and takes a forward look at the potential shift in Phuket’s development.

Phuket has experienced a remarkably sustained tourism growth trajectory over the past 40 years. Since the emergence of Asia’s tiger economies in the 1980s, its strategic geographic location and the rise of Thailand as one of the world’s major tourism destinations have created a strong service sector.

The island’s tourism journey has seen a continued progression, starting with budget travelers and European snowbirds escaping the winter, and onwards to market maturity. Throughout this time, Phuket witnessed the birth of iconic tropical pool resorts and was the starting point for two global luxury brands: Aman Resorts and Banyan Tree.

Within close proximity to two of Asia’s leading financial markets, Hong Kong and Singapore, Phuket’s hotel, tourism, and real estate sectors have accumulated considerable direct foreign investment over the years. Its strong and successful track record has continued to attract Thai institutional capital and overseas private equity, family offices, and publicly listed investors.

Moving through the global pandemic, the Phuket Sandbox was the starting point for Thailand’s international reopening and Phuket was the first Southeast Asian resort market to welcome global visitors. COVID-19 also led to a boom in the island’s luxury real estate sector, as both domestic and foreign high-net-worth buyers opted for a new lifestyle choice.

Global economic events have seen soaring inbound migration to Phuket from a growing set of source markets. This growth has created one of Asia’s most dynamic and diverse international communities. With a fast-moving tourism and property market, we are now witnessing a rapid diversification of the economy into areas such as international education, health and wellness, retail, and marine industries.

This report is intended to provide insight into Phuket’s destination upcycling, its key economic indicators, and growth potential. Our conclusion is that the island is entering a noteworthy new era of development that will create a platform for one of the region’s most desirable international destinations.

To download and read The Phuket Report – Economy In Transition CLICK

Phuket’s once-quiet beachside west coast community of Bangtao is experiencing an unparalleled surge in real estate development. According to new research from C9 Hotelworks, there are currently 7,842 condominium units (click to see upcoming project map). Added to the supply influx are just over 2,400 upscale and luxury homes, which equate to a pipeline of more than 10,000 residential units in the market.

In what is a fragmented neighborhood of Bangtao, Laguna, Cherngtalay, and Layan, these areas traditionally formed what is a tourism-oriented district. All of this is now changing, and the influx of real estate projects looks to recast the area as Phuket’s ‘Gold Coast’ in what is an emerging metropolitan area.

Despite a methodical pace of property growth over the past two decades, the post-pandemic inward migration onslaught of expatriates has been nothing short of phenomenal. Inland land prices in the area have more than tripled over the past 24 months, where land that had been THB8-10 million a rai is now THB25-30 million.

One of the key triggers of the property boom has been the Russian-Ukraine conflict, which has supercharged what was already a growing geographic source of business for tourists and real estate. Russian buyers now account for the lion’s share of properties, though there continues to be diversity in broader terms. Coupling with the incoming Eastern European growth is a steady stream of lifestyle buyers who are jumping onto the urban flight trend to work from home and focus on quality of life away from highly populated cities.

There is a rapid rise in new residents from the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Europe. Key to the migration storyline has been the widely popular Thailand Elite long-term visa program as well as the government-initiated retirement visa. A secondary demand generator has been the strong growth of international schools, which are now in double digits in size and expanding. These offer access to dependent and/or guardian visas.

Moving back to the makeover of Bangtao from a tourist area into an international community, there is an escalation of residential properties in size versus hotels. C9’s research shows there are 2,837 rooms/key of international standard properties in the expansive area. These are now being dwarfed by property development, which creates challenges and a potential problem of unlicensed tourism accommodation.

Thailand’s Hotel Act, as it stands now, makes it difficult and in many cases impossible for residential condominiums or villa estates to obtain hotel licenses. For condominiums, the conversion from residential use to commercial use that is required for a hotel license has been stymied at local approval levels and remains a contentious issue.

What is apparent with over 10,000 new properties coming up is that not all buyers will be end-users or owners of holiday/second homes. In many cases, residential buyers have expectations of high rental yields from a flourishing Phuket tourism market, yet they might face problems in the future as projects lack hotel licenses. For the traditional hotel sector, there is concern over unfair competition from the informal rental market.

Realistically, the lack of a licensing mechanism for residential properties is putting the government at a substantial tax disadvantage, and funds that could be earmarked for badly needed infrastructure are an opportunity missed. Safety in non-licensed accommodation should also be a critical area of concern.

As to who is developing the upcoming projects, these are comprised of three main groups. Laguna Phuket remains the largest land bank in the Greater Bangtao area, and it has shifted focus from tourism to real estate as an economic necessity. With more projects within the main destination resort area, the company will also push into a new mixed-use community north of Laguna Village.

On the Thai development front, post-COVID19 has seen Bangkok developers active, such as CPN (Central Pattana), One Origin, AssetWise, and Sansiri. Local groups include Boat Pattana, Botanica, and Anchan. Given the escalation of land prices, the current state of play favors mid-rise condominiums as the only way developers can make an economic case with underlying land costs.

For the third group, Eastern European, or mainly Russian developers have flocked to the Bangtao area as market sentiment is at its highest level. These projects account for at least half of the total condominium units coming to market, due to the greater density of development. At the end of the day, rising land acquisition costs are spurring this trend.

Another change for Phuket property is the escalation of commissions which remain unstandardized. In many of the new Bangtao properties that lack brand or strong customer bases, commissions have risen to 7-10 percent. In certain cases, even a cash bonus of up to THB100,000 has been added to the incentive.

Whereas more traditional projects would have seen lower commissions and higher marketing costs, developers are now becoming massively reliant on a growing brokerage base. A growth spurt of Russian and Eastern European agents now sees projects chasing them for prospective buyers. Certainly, brokerage has taken center stage for the moment, though there remain questions as to the depth of their customer base longer term. One good example of underlying growth in brokerage is the leading portal FazWaz, which has established a strong base for online buyer generation.

Lastly, larger property groups are closely watching the formation of new Phuket development regulations. This is regulated by the Phuket Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning together with the Bangkok-based Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment which oversees Environmental Regulations.

In C9’s discussions with experts on the draft plan which is expected to formalize in 2024, there will be a greater alignment to Bangkok-type rules that focus on FAR (floor area ratio) and higher minimum-road width for mid-rise development. It’s likely that given Phuket’s growth, certain areas will be zoned for high-rise development.

These changes, while needed, will come too late to address growing traffic concerns. The addition of over 10,000 new residential properties to the Bangtao area will see an uptick of large construction vehicles, a large-scale growth in private vehicles, and is a serious situation that has to become a government priority. Sadly, there is no blueprint structure for an expanding Bangtao metropolitan district that crosses many local jurisdictions. The most glaring immediate need is a traffic study and action plan by the municipality and highway department.

As a final point, one missing link in the growth of residential units is the lack of diversification of larger demand generators such as a full-service hospital, central parking structures, commercial buildings, international convention center, public parks, and pedestrian-friendly access. This, of course, is at odds with sky-high property prices that dictate highly dense projects to make economic sense. What is desperately needed is a Phuket Master Plan and acceleration of transportation infrastructure.

Bangtao’s journey into a metropolitan, ‘Gold Coast’ community is well underway, and we do expect cyclical growth to continue into the high season, but there is also a tendency to wonder: when does the market peak, and what comes next?

To view C9 Hotelworks Latest Phuket Hotel Market Update 2023 CLICK

C9 Hotelworks has released an exciting new market research report Habuba Tourism and Property Market Review.

Hakuba, renowned for being part of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, has evolved from a seasonal Australian-focused skiing destination into a year-round getaway.   It is located within a three-hour drive from Tokyo. The valley has witnessed increasing development, attracting emerging markets from Asia, notably Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic rejuvenated the appeal of high-quality ski destinations in the domestic market.

The robust growth extends beyond tourism to the property market, driven by a rising demand for holiday rental homes. Traditionally, Hakuba focused on the development of ski chalets with classic alpine designs, which remain prominent. Nevertheless, the market is now witnessing an influx of condominium projects, exemplified by the successful ROKA Residences development. Offering units ranging from two to five bedrooms with ski-in/ski-out access, this luxury project by Hakuba Mirai experienced strong sales during the pandemic.

A noteworthy development generating excitement in the market is the debut of the Banyan Tree Resort and Branded Residences in Hakuba. This represents the first entry of a hotel and branded residences into the market. Situated in the Wadano and Happo areas of Hakuba, the project encompasses 105 hotel rooms and 32 condominium units available for purchase, all providing convenient ski-in/ski-out access to the Happo-one ski resort.

In line with the Niseko market, ski-in/ski-out access on prime land continues to be the preferred choice. Given the presence of undeveloped, affordable land in Hakuba, we view the market fundamentals favorably.

To read and download the full report CLICK


C9 Hotelworks new Niseko Tourism and Property Review has just been released and shows a flight to brands. The report highlights that 74% of pipeline projects are branded.

In the wake of Niseko’s official border reopening in October 2022, the area has witnessed a substantial influx of visitors, reaching 2.6 million in YTD2023. This represents an impressive year-on-year growth rate of 64%, highlighting a sustained tourism demand for the Niseko area.

Among the total number of overnight visitors, international arrivals surged to 59% in YTD2023, compared to just 34% in 2019. This upward trajectory is expected to continue with the revival of more direct international flights. The analysis by C9 Hotelworks indicates that the tourism market is on track to return to pre-COVID levels by 2024.

Shifting our focus to the real estate sector, Niseko’s land prices in 2023 exhibited an uptick, according to The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. Residential land prices saw a modest 1% increase this year. Meanwhile, commercial and retail land prices have accelerated by 8%.

Across the market, the average sales price per square meter for condominiums in Hirafu stood at USD14,644. These projects have experienced a slowdown in absorption rates due to a surge in available units. Nevertheless, the absorption rates for houses and land plots remain notably high, particularly those in the Hanazono area.

Turning to property, the majority of upcoming projects are concentrated in Hirafu and Outer Hirafu, constituting 48% of the total, followed by Hanazono at 34%, and Higashiyama & Niseko Village with 8%. Notable projects in the pipeline include New World La Plume Niseko Resort (2024), Cassia Hotel and Residences Hirafu (2026), and Six Senses Niseko (2026).

To download the full report CLICK

In the first half of 2023, Phuket experienced a resurgence, signaling a promising path toward recovery. International and domestic flights both saw significant increases, accounting for 75% of the total flights in 2022. Airlines and travelers alike are eager to reengage with Phuket’s offerings. In terms of passenger arrivals, the first half of 2023 displayed an impressive rebound, already representing 87% of 2022’s volume.

This optimistic outlook is further supported by the addition of new direct flights from China. The reopening of Chinese borders led to a timid resurgence of Chinese tourists, particularly in the second quarter. Additionally, plans announced by the new government cabinet to expand the list of visa-free countries, including China and India, could likely contribute to boosting Chinese tourist arrivals, a key factor in Phuket’s recovery.

Furthermore, investment opportunities in Phuket are on the rise due to high demand for both Hotels and Branded Residences, combined with the weakening of the Thai baht against major currencies. Foreign and Thai investors are increasingly looking to the Phuket region for their next projects.

Looking ahead, Phuket’s market is set to surpass both 2022 results and 2019 levels. As the high season approaches, there are mounting concerns over the island’s failing infrastructure. Upgrading is imperative to accommodate sustained demand. While Phuket’s tourism market continues to grow, there may be dark clouds on the horizon if badly needed infrastructure projects continue to lapse.

To read and download C9 Hotelworks Mid-Year Phuket Hotel Market Update CLICK


One good indication of Phuket’s return to tourism recovery is airlift growth.

Making news this week is Thai Airways International’s reported resumption of service on the high-traffic Phuket Bangkok route.

The airline will start a once-daily right on 1st October 2023.

Thai Smile (WE) will still operate other flights til the end of November when Thai Airways (TG) effectively takes over the route.

This is great news for those tired travelers of Thai Smile single-bodied aircraft and the return to the island of Thai’s larger widebody fleet.

Hotels and resorts around Southeast Asia are failing to understand the “green premium” and how to leverage it to attract quality guests, according to leading figures in the region’s hospitality industry.

The message that hotels and resorts are falling behind counterparts in other parts of the globe when it comes to capitalizing on the benefits associated with sustainable tourism was one of the major takeaways from PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism), Southeast Asia’s largest sustainability forum, held this week at SAii Laguna where over 1,000 participants gathered.
Hotel developers in Southeast Asia have broadly failed to make sustainably a must as they do in Europe or North America. It’s a massive disconnect.

Other expert speakers at PHIST included star designer Bill Bensley and KP Ho, the founder and executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Laguna Resorts and Hotels—urged resort owners to become more cognizant of the wider benefits associated with sustainable tourism.

By pioneering green or mindful practices ranging from waste management and energy conservation to farm-to-fork dining, sourcing organic produce from local farmers, and better community engagement, resorts can streamline costs and build goodwill. In doing so, they can also enhance their appeal to clients who place a premium value on experiences that are ethical, sustainable, and — perhaps most importantly—unique.

Jesper Palmqvist, STR Global’s Area Director for Asia Pacific, hosted a roundtable at PHIST where figures from top resort names such as Six Senses and Soneva discussed environmental best practices moving forward.  He agreed that the hospitality industry in Southeast Asia needs to be more proactive about enacting meaningful changes.

“It’s important that the industry develops green champions, best practice documents, and training modules that can be modified by hotels,” he said. “Furthermore, hotels need to be pressured into fulfilling international sustainability certification. This would show more ambition to adopt new criteria relating to the environment and thus stay ahead of the curve.”

Other discussions about ways to seize the opportunities afforded by sustainable tourism were to the fore as some of the biggest names in the region’s hospitality sector gathered for PHIST.

KP Ho was instrumental in the transformation of Laguna Phuket from a barren moonscape of scarred land—abandoned by the tin mining industry and declared as uninhabitable by the UN—into Southeast Asia’s leading integrated resort development.

Bill Bensley has helped curate some of Asia’s most charismatic sustainable tourism experiences. His Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia, for example, offers luxury, tented accommodation while using funds to preserve its surrounding private nature sanctuary from poaching, mining, and logging.

The “green premium” and how to sway it was just one of many topics up for discussion at this year’s PHIST, which featured 16 interactive workshops and over 30 exhibitors.

Workshop discussion covered issues such as the circular sustainable economy, green hotel loans, and start-up funds, glamping, farm-to-table cuisine, environmental hospitality design, data, and measurement, greentech innovation, marketing sustainable hotels, water conservation, sustainable wellness and more.

Directly preceding PHIST, outdoor lodging practitioners gathered and agreed upon the formation of the Asia Pacific Outdoor Lodging Association (APOLA), a trade body set up to guide, promote, and structure the development of the outdoor lodging sector in the region as it expands.

APOLA’s mission will be to help define the standards for the region, raise awareness, develop an accounting system for project financing, and educate the industry about the advantages of this lower-impact, sustainable hospitality model. Interested developers, owners, and managers in the sector are invited to submit their interest to join the association by contacting APOLA at CLICK

C9 Hotelworks is co-event organizer of PHIST together with Greenview and Phuket Hotels Association.


Siem Reap, known for the iconic Angkor Wat, is poised for a strong resurgence with the upcoming inauguration of the Siem-Reap – Angkok International Airport on October 16, 2023. While the pandemic temporarily impacted this heritage tourism hub, recent developments indicate a remarkable recovery. According to the newly released  C9 Hotelworks Horwath HTL Hotel and Branded Residences Report 2023, the destination saw a significant decline in visitors due to travel restrictions and health concerns, but with restrictions easing, the tide is turning.

In 2022, Siem Reap welcomed a staggering 602% increase in visitors compared to 2021, reaching a total of 2.69 million tourists, with international tourism expenditure surpassing domestic spending. The resurgence brought the industry back to over half of its 2019 performance. A notable shift in the tourist demographic occurred, with the United States, South Korea, United Kingdom, and France becoming key players in the absence of the once-dominant Chinese market.

The future looks promising, with the new airport expanding annual passenger capacity to 7 million and a comprehensive government strategy focusing on six tourism zones and diverse offerings like MICE tourism, agro-tourism, sports tourism, health tourism, green tourism, as well as cultural, heritage, and religious tourism products. This comprehensive approach sets the stage for a positive and vibrant long-term outlook for Siem Reap’s tourism industry.

To Download and read the full C9 Hotelworks Horwath HTL Hotel and Branded Residences Report 2023 CLICK

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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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