About Bt2 billion of new investment in service and hospitality businesses is flowing into Krabi province as players foresee good long-term returns, according to the Krabi Chamber of Commerce. The developments include a convention centre, a hospital, hotels and resorts, as well as airport expansion.
Chamber chairman Phuvadit Preechanont said the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Bitec) was studying whether to build a convention centre on an 80-rai (12.8-hectare) public area at Aow Nang Beach at a cost of more than Bt1 billion. The centre would be able to accommodate between 1,000 and 3,000 visitors.
“I’m interested in joint investment with Bitec. Talks about the project are ongoing,” he said.
The new facility would not compete directly with the planned Phuket convention centre, but the centres would supplement each other, he said. The Phuket centre would be larger than its Krabi counterpart. Moreover, it will be a state facility as opposed to privately owned.
Aside from the convention-centre project, Krabi Nakarin Hospital is under construction and scheduled to open next year.
In addition, about 3,000 hotel rooms are set to open in the province within the next few years, mostly in new three- and four-star properties.
The chamber said there were currently about 18,000 rooms in the province, with luxury brands such as Sheraton, Sofitel and Ritz Carlton already established.
Krabi Airport became an international airport a few years ago and now is under expansion. A new international terminal and more parking decks are expected to come into operation next year.
Only Thai Airways International and AirAsia currently use the airport regularly, with charter flights and foreign airlines operating seasonally. However, more carriers are expected to come to Krabi once the expansion is completed.
“Many new developments are coming to Krabi. We are just short of shopping malls,” Phuvadit said.
The chamber chief said Krabi had good potential to become a new tourism hub of the Andaman coast, but would position itself differently from Phuket.
He said the province was a natural destination, while Phuket was more famous for recreation and the mass international market.
The province is promoting products such as its 400 kilometres of beaches, hot salt-water springs and walking areas.
To promote these products internationally, the chamber and private interests plan to visit the Chinese, European and Indochinese markets to introduce Krabi and encourage their nationals to visit the area.
Last year, Krabi received about 2 million visitors, 60 per cent of whom were foreign. Tourism generated Bt24 billion for the province.
This year, the number of local and foreign tourists has dropped 40 per cent since the devastating flooding and landslides that hit the South in March.
Hotel operators in Krabi had received as much as 70 per cent in forward bookings from travel fairs for the current summer season, but heavy rain resulted in nearly 100 per cent of water activities having to be cancelled.
Phuvadit urged the government to repair the area’s currently bad reputation for safety, claiming that most parts of the province were unaffected by recent natural disasters and open for business as usual. He added that Krabi International Airport was safer than Phuket’s airport, as it is not situated close to the ocean.