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PHUKET: The last two months have been particularly ‘different’ from the past years’ norms in Phuket in more ways than one. Firstly, the weather has not been as predictable. Hot, sunny days are now interlaced with cloudy, rainy days and the weather forecast is hardly ever accurate. If you think the weather forecast in Phuket is sounding a little like London, it actually may well be… don’t forget your umbrella on the way out, together with the sunscreen.

The high season seems different as well. Surprisingly, this time around, branded 5-star hotels did not achieve the magical 100 per cent occupancy that they usually do over the Christmas and New Year period. A quick check, both online and walk-in, showed room availability over a variety of budget, as well as branded 5 star hotels. This may also have been affected by the strong Thai baht against the weak Euro, US dollar and British pound, as it is now 10-20 per cent more expensive compared to the previous years. Airbnb may have also taken a chunk of the hotels’ business, hence the pressure by the Phuket Hotel Association on local authorities to enforce the Hotel Act diligently.

With the absence of restaurants and beach clubs on the beaches, a new slew of restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and beach clubs (not all of them close to the beach) have mushroomed inland to cater to demand. Phuket is not just about beaches; it has some pretty decent restaurants, both local and international cuisine, spanning from steak houses to French cuisine. Though it’s yet to achieve a mention in the top ranked gastronomical experiences of Thailand, it won’t be too long before it hits the list.

In the real estate market, the difference has been the increase of ‘bargain-hunters’ in the sales market, looking for a good buy or a distressed property to pick up. Currently, it’s a buyer’s market with some sellers taking advantage of the strong Thai baht to dispose of their asset and repatriate money against a weaker currency back home. In the current short-term outlook, where owners are looking to dispose of their property, listing the property as ‘priced to sell’, rather than priced at the initial purchase price plus improvement costs, may assist the sale.

As for the holiday rental market, super luxury villas continue to retain their niche market of the big spenders looking to splash US$3,000 or more per night for a luxury property serviced by an in-house manager, chefs, maids, chauffeur and even private yoga and pilates instructors. The long-term rental market (6 months to a year) remains active, especially within a 20-minute driving radius from international schools and workplaces, yet within convenient proximity to shops, restaurants, supermarkets, banks and other amenities.

Phuket is always changing and evolving, and is likely to continue setting its own trends.

Amy Koh is the sales manager of Engel & Voelkers Phuket. To contact Amy or for more information, visit www.engel voelkers.com/en/phuket

— Amy Koh