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Making Tourism more Family-Friendly

By Phakwiphoo Tanpradit

Building an adventure, corporate training and tours business in Asia must start with the family. Our research at Laguna Phuket shows that nine out of 10 guests want to undertake activities with their children during their stay, rather than “farming” them out to a children’s club or nannies.

However, a look around Asia reveals that most tour and adventure offerings are for young adults and adults. In Thailand there is bias toward trekking, jeep, elephant and cultural tours. For the more adventurous there are mountain climbing, bicycle and water rafting in places like Australia, China, Nepal, India, Vietnam and even the Arctic if you want to go outside Asia-Pacific.

But these are more traditional activities. In the coming years. The landscape will change as customers seek more variety and “value added” activities, particularly for children and families. In this regard if we were to look five years out we can see a different market developing, particularly for places like Phuket, much of it driven by the integrated resort concept that demands a wide range of activities be available for guests.

Laguna Phuket, for example, is an unusual integrated resort in Asia as the vast majority of such resorts in this region have a casino as their anchor revenue generator. Because running a casino is not possible by law in Thailand, other means of attracting—and retaining—repeat customers must be developed. One way is to hold regular major events like triathlons, marathons and other sport events. But we must look ahead and discover complementary activities to these large events that are ongoing and can appeal to people of all ages—literally, like golf, from 8 to 80 years.

For example in the boat market, where the current norm is to hire a yacht or boat for two or three days, sail or drive themselves and stay out one or two nights before returning. In future we can foresee a package where guests would luxuriate on a large boat for the same period, moving overnight from one island to another [ Phang Nga,  Phi Phi, there are many to choose from in Thailand ] then spend a similar time on shore at an up market island resort. A type of Caribbean cruise concept.

Another future activity would be to develop the current kids adventure camps at resorts like Laguna Phuket. A repertoire of activities to include week long adventure camps could be marketed to international schools in the region, again capitalizing on the Laguna and Quest brands. Another vehicle could be to offer Quest’s services to hotels to include in their marketing campaigns. If the hotel received a booking, Quest would operate the programme on their behalf.

A professional seminar programme with speakers flying in from all around Asia could also be developed. This could be integrated with the other concepts in a dynamic modular format so aspects could be used as and when required.There is a crying need for such facilities on Phuket.

These ideas are all feasible and should become a reality in the next few years. But in the short term Phuket could also lead Asia with development of a home-grown “park” that caters for all manner of activities within a specific, integrated area. This could offer everything from keep fit trails, corporate training courses, elephant rides, picnics, running tracks, an outdoor movie theatre and even an amphitheatre for concerts. There is nothing to stop this happening. It is badly needed. I am sure such a “park” with appropriate accommodation and transport to support it, would be a magnet for people not only from Asia, but around the world.

It gets back to the family concept. Visitors to Laguna Phuket from Europe, Australia and New Zealand who we have polled are adamant that their holidays are mainly about family, but that the facilities are not always readily available for them to enjoy such family time. We have to think outside the normal box of sun, sand, sea, shopping, restaurants and bars in Phuket and develop the range of offerings I have mentioned here if we are to realize our vision of Phuket becoming not only a good traditional holiday destination, but one where you can also keep fit in pleasant, tropical, outdoor surroundings; have fun with the kids or let the kids have fun by themselves if necessary, develop the team building and corporate culture ethos while having a good time doing it and generally being able to “chill out” by having choice.

Choice is the answer to further developing Phuket as the No 1 tourist destination in Asia. We want our “parks” and other facilities to become iconic and associated with good, healthy, family fun. A smorgasboard of choice—without the food.

This Op-Ed piece originally appeared in the Bangkok Post. Published on February 22, 2010.
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Phakwiphoo Tanpradit [Kate] is sales and marketing manager for Laguna Excursions Limited, a newly formed, integrated company owned by Laguna Hotels & Resorts combining the Quest corporate training brand with Laguna Tours.

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