Large numbers of tourists are annually drawn to southern Thailand’s resort island of Phuket, including affluent maritime travellers with personal yachts visiting the coastal province dubbed the Pearl of the Andaman.
Recently, worldwide yacht sales entrepreneurs and travel buyers voted Phuket as the ‘Best Asian Maritime Capital’ at the Asia Boating Award 2010 held in Hong Kong. Phuket was deemed Asia’s best centre for ocean travel, surpassing rivals Hong Kong, Singapore, and Italy.
Statistics from the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket office show that many tourists arrive at the island by sea, an expensive mode of travel. Some Bt10 billion (US$306 million) is brought into Phuket by maritime tourists every year, and the numbers are rising.
At a recent Asia Boating Award 2010 in Hong Kong, worldwide sales entrepreneurs and travel buyers voted Phuket as the “Best Asian Maritime Capital”
“Phuket is the centre for travellers to easily sail their yacht to other Asian cities, as the marinas here readily provide conveniences to those who sail. The resort island also a a central point that connects with other destinations”.
The Philippines’ tourism ministry has pushed to promote and develop many of its prized islands and to draw more visitors than the usual weekenders from Manila or honeymooners from Korea. Boracay, with its long stretches of powdery white sand and kite-surfing- and-dive-friendly coral reefs, remains the crown jewel, if not yet the cash cow, of the Philippine Islands.
“They’re going crazy on Boracay because they want it to become the next Thailand,” said Margaux Palau, 34, a local diving and yoga instructor originally from Spain, referring to Thailand’s touristy shores. “Boracay is much nicer, if you ask me, but it’s also much farther for most people, which is why it’s still unknown.”
But that is changing. In the first quarter of this year, the country’s prime tourism season, the number of foreign visitors to the Philippines was up by 8 percent from the same period a year ago; Boracay, which is less than an hour’s flight from Manila, had a 20 percent spike in tourism. Last year, this island’s 650,000 tourists — a third of them foreign — marked an all-time high, according to the department of tourism.
Most of the island’s attractions can be found along White Beach, its three miles of soft sand lined with thick groves of swaying palms. For better or worse, this part of Boracay has embraced its inner Phuket, with barking masseuses, all-you-can-eat buffets and resorts with more waterfalls than the Amazon.