Branded developments propel Samui upmarket

Sea, sun and sand are the magic formula for the resort island.

Sea, sun and sand are the magic formula for the resort island.

Bright future foreseen as more projects start to emerge.

Three branded developments and a successful condominium project have propelled Samui to the high-end realm of the market while still maintaining its boutique appeal, says David Simister, chairman of CB Richard Ellis Thailand.

This significant change, which started about 10 years ago with enterprising individuals undertaking private villa projects, zoomed ahead with the launch of W Koh Samui Retreat & Residences. It has 17 villas for sale, while The Estates Samui, adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort, offers 14 villas and Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa has over 30 villas.

“Samui has gone from having no branded developments a year ago to three now. The Estates isn’t branded Four Seasons but it’s integrally part of the Four Seasons site and you actually reach it through the Four Seasons lobby.”

An earlier hotel condominium project, Casavela by Aquarius Estate, also established a new pricing level in Samui reaching over 100,000 baht a square metre.

All these developments are helped by Bangkok Airways’ retro-style private airport on the island which puts visitors in a holiday mood. Aside from Bangkok and other locations in Thailand this airport also serves flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Simister foresees a glowing future for Samui because its location will make it an integral part of the emergence of what he calls the “Riviera of Asia”.

“Foreigners love Thailand and they love it as buyers of retirement property”“I have always believed there is a Riviera of Asia. Phuket is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, as it’s the most developed and most advanced, but the Riviera will extend up to Cambodia and Vietnam, up to places such as Hainan Island, and I believe that will open up an awful lot of cruising and yachting business in the future.”

Although Samui does not yet have a marina while Phuket has three in operation with a fourth about to open, the smaller island does have potential.

“Marinas have been talked about in Samui for sometime and there are sites available for marinas of different sizes. There is a fishing community in Samui where fishermen can anchor so the potential for boats is there.”

Samui’s big opportunity, said Mr Simister, lies in its strategic proximity to Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. While Phuket and Langkawi offer some very nice cruising waters on the other side of the peninsula, visitors would have to make specific trips to reach them, although some might charter boats for that area.

“I have never managed to covert a Phuket buyer to Samui or a Samui buyer to Phuket. Everybody forms very strong attachments to each island and it’s based on their personal experience and what they value on each island.”

Samui’s big opportunity lies in its strategic proximity to Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, says Mr Simister.

Samui’s big opportunity lies in its strategic proximity to Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, says Mr Simister.

Some might suspect Samui benefited from having an open airport while protests closed those in Phuket and Krabi for two days at the end of August. This led to 15,000 tourists being stranded on the bigger island and several thousand more in Samui.

“It’s not a case of Phuket’s pain was Samui’s gain. It’s a case of everybody having to suffer because we lost foreign revenue unnecessarily.”

Mr Simister acknowledged that the high season had been negatively affected by the political demonstrations and disturbances.

But despite this, foreigners are unlikely to give up on Thailand: “Foreigners love Thailand; they love it as tourists and they love it as buyers of retirement property, resort homes and condominiums in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Bangkok.

“Thailand has been very resilient, as tourists have always come back. They came back after Sars, they came back after the tsunami and one hopes they will come back after Thai politics sorts itself out.”

Mr Simister admitted that Samui’s property market is different in character today than a year ago.

“Twelve months ago we were looking at a high season at the end of 2007-08, people were still confident that prices were rising and projects were selling rapidly off plan.

“Even with the global crisis, Thailand is in a much stronger position on its real estate because there is real demand and prices by global standards are very, very cheap.”

Helping the Thai real estate industry are the exemplary lending practices in this country and the fact that the resort markets are mainly cash-driven because of difficulty foreigners have in acquiring mortgages here.

Although it has been repeatedly pummelled by both local and global problems, Samui has not seen property prices plunge although they have levelled off.

“We are seeing a healthy volume of resales in the projects so that indicates we still have real demand from end-users. We are not talking about people booking something off-plan for speculation - we are talking about people now coming in as a project is near completion and making sensible purchases. Not everybody wants to take off-plan purchase risk.”

About the author

Nina Suebsukcharoen Nina Suebsukcharoen
Nina Suebsukcharoen is a senior journalist with The Bangkok Post, Thailand's first English language newspaper and specialises in the property and real estate sector.
Other posts by Nina Suebsukcharoen ( 28 )

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