Non-beach-related activities hold their own in the popular Thai resort hub amid improving air linkages.

Phuket is transforming into a more well-rounded destination as a preponderance of visitors takes advantage of the Thai resort island’s expanding air transport infrastructure.

Tourists as well as property seekers are finding new purpose in the renowned island in the Andaman Sea: spending time and money on activities not necessarily related to the beach.

Almost 200,000 square meters’ worth of premium-grade leasable retail spaces are in the pipeline for Phuket, offering travellers and new residents options beyond the sand and surf, a new report by hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks showed.

Developers are also adding more serviced apartment units to mixed-use projects in a bid to attract real estate buyers, underscoring Phuket’s changing consumer landscape. Ten upcoming mixed-use properties are set to have a hotel-residence component, comprising 28 percent of total incoming supply.

“Phuket is gradually transforming to a more urbanised holiday destination rather than a pure beach getaway,” said C9 Hotelworks managing director Bill Barnett in a statement.

Four retail complexes are under development in the island — extensions to Boat Avenue and Central Festival Phuket among them — as demand for “non-beach centric activities” rise, C9 Hotelworks noted in the report.

“With the strong purchasing power of tourists, especially Chinese, Russians and Australians, more retail and tourism attractions are developing on the island.”

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Clearly investment in overhauls to the island’s airport has paid dividends. A total of 3.5 million passengers arrived in Phuket in the first four months of 2018, up 19 percent from the same period in 2017.

China remained the biggest source market, with flights from the mainland accounting for a 40 percent share of overseas passenger arrivals. Russia and Germany came next at 18 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

The Phuket airport opened its international terminal in 2016. A newly renovated phase of the domestic terminal opened in November, with a second renovation underway.

Another international airport will be built over the Sarasin Bridge in Khoh Kloi Phang Nga for tentative opening in 2025, the AoT (Airports of Thailand) announced. Construction will begin in 2019 at a total cost of USD1.8 billion.

“Creating a broader Greater Phuket Tourism Triangle that includes Phang Nga Bay and the prime West Coast beach strip from Natai to Thai Muang on the mainland will bring more diversity and refresh the island’s maturing global appeal,” Barnett said.

Phuket offered 84,427 keys across 1,744 tourist accommodation establishments as of Q1 2018, with 36 new hotels in the pipeline. Twenty-seven upcoming properties are affiliated with international hotel brands.

Around 155 resort villas were sold in Phuket last year, the highest number of units sold in a year since 2015, according to CBRE Thailand.

The article appeared in Property Report.