Phuket’s prosperity has never been more prominent. Thailand’s largest and wealthiest island boasts the country’s greatest concentration of multi-million-dollar holiday homes dotted across the landscaped plots of Phuket’s coast.
Furthermore, over the past couple of decades I have witnessed Phuket evolve into a marine playground for the global jet set.
The “Pearl of the South”, as Phuket has been aptly described by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, has rapidly become the natural base of the region’s sailing community, in part due to its excellent geographical location, which has made it a natural port of call for boats traversing the Indian Ocean for many centuries.
Yet it’s not solely down to the azure Andaman waters lapping the shores of Phuket that makes exceptional cruising grounds for seafarers and a prime launching pad for exploring Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and the Andaman Islands. Phuket is already firmly on the international yachting map.
It has been 24 years since the island hosted the Land of Smiles’ first international yachting event, the inaugural King’s Cup Regatta.
The event that concluded on dec 11 this year is now a prestigious annual fixture on the international sailing calendar, and one that continues to grow.
Our new Superyacht building company, Ruea Yachts, recently finalised its modest contribution to the scene: our first original design concept was for a 60-metre luxury six-deck motor yacht, and, once the building was complete, the yacht was ready to cruise from our Bangkok facility to Phuket for the season.
This wouldn’t be possible without the first-rate marine infrastructure that is already a firm fixture in Phuket, including its four well-established marinas.
The first world-class marina in Phuket, the Phuket Boat Lagoon, became operational as far back as 1996. This 168-berth marina was at the forefront of marine development in Phuket and boasts numerous restaurants and bars and exclusive hotel facilities.
Furthermore, a more recent addition to Phuket’s marina family is the Royal Phuket Marina, an exclusive $150 million luxury lifestyle marina in Phang Nga Bay. The upscale complex has already won Five Gold Anchors from the Yacht Harbour Association, making it one of only two marinas in Asia to rank in the British Marine Federation’s top category for facilities and services.
This is clear confirmation that Phuket is fast becoming Asia’s foremost superyacht destination, recognised as the ‘Riviera of Asia’ among the boating community. This accolade is corroborated by one of our clients who firmly believes Phuket has the potential to be the best superyacht destination in the world.
Establishing Phuket as this foremost superyacht destination should be easily achieved as it provides an essential blend of winning factors at both sea and on land, in addition to the quintessential value for money found in Thailand. Basking in the year-round good weather, the island’s magnificent west-coast beaches hold a certain allure for visitors. Bustling Patong Beach has generated the most developed tourist infrastructure, perfect for an evening’s tour of busy pubs, cool clubs and fine-dining options.
Elsewhere, more tranquil sandy strips, such as Surin, Bang Tao and Mai Khao and, around the island’s southern tip, Nai Harn Beach and Rawai, offer comparatively peaceful pleasures. With such a wealth of infrastructure it’s comforting to know that Phuket’s locals, as well as the luxury hotel community, have been earning solid environmental credentials in recent years, helping the beaches and offshore waters stay consistently clean.
Strong tourism infrastructure is already in place, on account of Phuket International Airport plus an abundance of five-star hotels, first-class restaurants, a wealth of culture to explore and some of the best shopping in Thailand. This is further boosted by a booming high-end property market and an extensive growth in wealthy foreign expats looking to reside in Phuket, prompting Thailand’s best schools to open branches on the island.
Extending visa durations for yacht crews and long-term guests would have beneficial economic consequences for the island; longer stays equal a boom in spending. Creating a world-class superyacht refit facility in Phuket with a minimal environmental impact meeting European standards such as ISO 9001 and 14001 quality and environmental certification, in my view would certainly attract more yachts to Phuket. With a high-quality facility set in such stunning surroundings, why would yachts go anywhere else?
Reviewing both charter laws to facilitate more high-end visitors and foreign ownerships laws for both yachts and property would undoubtedly encourage more high-end clients.
Developing Phuket International Airport’s infrastructure by adding longer runways for wide-bodied planes to fly in from Europe and America, would entice tourists from long-haul destinations to visit.
More high-spenders would be eager to stay if luxury shopping facilities continue to be developed and duty-free status was introduced in Phuket. Naturally, tourists would also be able to travel around the island more easily if Bangkok-style metered taxis were introduced.
Much has been achieved in Phuket over the course of the past two decades. If progress continues apace, local design and building skills will soon flourish, improving the local marine infrastructure.
In due course, this will continue to increase Phuket’s desirability as the destination of choice for the international, superyacht-owning jet set.
Gareth Twist is the managing director of Ruea Yachts, a division of Yacht Solution. He is also a founding member of the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association. For more information visit