Khao Lak, which sits about an hour's drive north of Phuket in southern Thailand, was better known as the go-to destination for many European winterbirds each high season.
Asian visitation to this Andaman Coast destination has picked up significantly in recent years but Thai travellers were notably missing.
All that changed with the Covid-19 pandemic, when pandemic-induced border closures only shut Khao Lak—and the country—from most international arrivals in 2020.
The destination is now enjoying unprecedented popularity among local travellers from both fly and drive-in markets, thanks to a mixture of surfing, culture and Michelin-mania offerings.
According to consulting group C9 Hotelworks, the Thai government's domestic travel incentive post lockdown, which coincided with Khao Lak's surf season, and social media have also been instrumental in driving Thai visitations to Khao Lak. Foodies can also make a beeline for Khrua Luang Then, given the Bib Gourmand nod by Michelin.
Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, noted, "The continued influx of social media bloggers and influencers heading South is already creating a ripple effect in demand, most notably with the Similan and Surin islands as day trips from Khao Lak. It may not be a typical high season but for now, the domestic tourists are a welcome sight for stressed hoteliers and tourism businesses.”
Improved infrastructure is another major factor, with the near completion of a four-lane highway expansion from the gateway airport in Phuket. From this project, the Takua Pa district is one of the recipients of new tourism traffic entering for the old town's native craft, culture and nature offerings.
Riding on this wave, some hotel owners have been busy launching properties. There're currently 114 registered tourism establishments with 9,542 rooms and a further 2,283 keys in the pipeline. Of the incoming new builds, 73% are under chain names, including Pullman, Marriott, Sheraton, AVANI, and Holiday Inn.
The latest to join the string of destination hotels in Takua Pa is Pullman Khao Lak, opening on 1 December.