Thailand’s Serene Krabi Aims for Upscale Chinese Travelers

    More direct flights from China to Thailand's picturesque Krabi province are making the area a luxury travel hotspot for Chinese tourists.
    Jing Daily
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    Nakamanda Resort & Spa. (Courtesy Photo)

    With a growing number of air links to China, Thailand’s idyllic Krabi province is attracting more Chinese vacationers hoping for a quieter beachfront alternative to roaring Phuket. As the country aims to attract more independent and upscale Chinese travelers, the number of Krabi’s luxury resorts is growing along with the influx.

    Nakamanda Resort & Spa, a luxury resort located in Krabi’s tranquil Klong Muang area that features private villas in a lush tropical garden on the shore of the Andaman Coast has experienced the Chinese travel boom. Although the resort’s upscale branding and layout mean it doesn’t focus on tour groups, it has been seeing a growing number of Chinese guests thanks to their newfound interest in independent travel and experiential luxury.

    “We have seen more and more independent Chinese travelers each year at Nakamanda,” says Weera Purinrak, the resort’s managing director, who notes that instead of tour groups, the resort has either “couple or family travelers” as guests. “Nakamanda, having positioned itself for the high-end traveler, has created and catered for people who like privacy, ambience, and personalized services as opposed to bigger hotels. Thus, we are now seeing more growth in this segment.”

    The boutique resort is located on a private, secluded cove with a large pool overlooking the beach. The Thai-style private villas, some of which offer private pools, are decorated in earth tones to emphasize the resort’s calming nature-focused aesthetic. In addition to the resort’s full-service spa and gourmet restaurant, it also rents out kayaks at high tide and organizes tours and activities for guests.

    The pool at Nakamanda in Krabi, Thailand. (Courtesy Photo)

    “The destination is of less frenetic activities as opposed to other places around Thailand,” says Purinrak, who says that Chinese guests are interested in “rock-climbing, sightseeing, and both sea and land-related activities” when they visit. Krabi’s coast is known specifically for its unique, picturesque rock formations jutting out of the water that are found near its Ao Nang area.

    As Chinese visitor numbers to Thailand have skyrocketed, Krabi is set to receive significantly more tourists from China as new direct flights are added. In February this year, Hainan Airlines announced that its subsidiary Yunnan Lucky Air would begin making direct flights to Krabi, allowing travelers to get there in less than three hours from China. By April, Nakamanda was already seeing more Chinese guests and bookings as a result. To cater to the growing number of Chinese guests, the resort has employed Mandarin-speaking staff an is in the process of further developing its Chinese-language service.

    Nakamanda Resort & Spa at high tide. (Jing Daily)

    In the wake of this Chinese travel boom, the Thai government has been making a concerted effort to attract more upscale independent tourists. This is not just for economic reasons, but also social—big groups of Chinese budget travelers have sparked tension with locals across the country. In Krabi, public bathrooms have Chinese-language signs instructing visitors not to wash their feet in the sink—a practice that offends locals—and Chinese tourists in the area have been known to receive fines from local authorities for doing so. Overcrowding of tourists at the area’s most picturesque areas is also a concern as Chinese traveler numbers rapidly increase.

    As a result, the emphasis on individual travelers as opposed to groups is likely welcomed by locals. It also benefits high-end resorts like Nakamanda, which appeals to those in search of an uncrowded, serene location. “Thailand will undeniably capture more upscale travelers from China,” predicts Purinrak, who says that rising costs of travel in the area are a factor.

    In the future, Nakamanda expects its Chinese visitor numbers to remain on an upward trajectory, despite political strife that caused them to slump last year. Chinese tourist arrivals have been rebounding this year as the situation has stabilized. “Chinese travelers have now made up for a much bigger share in Thailand’s tourism industry,” says Purinrak. “Expectedly, the number will keep on rising over the next several years.”

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.