21 April – Songkran 2 It’s New Year (again)
If the Russian Orthodox Church can celebrate Christmas in the middle of January then why can’t folks on Koh Chang celebrate Thai New Year 10 days after the event too? However, these celebrations have less to do with adherence to the Julian calendar than they do with hotels and businesses allowing their staff a couple of well earned days off to let their hair down after they have have been working over the ‘real’ Songkran holiday.
Mark Saturday 25 April as the day to either get your watergun’s out again and get wreak revenge on the local kids who soaked you last week or stay indoors.
Do something different.
How about from Sydney to London by 110cc Honda? ‘The Postman’ was on Koh Chang last week. Some good stuff on his website e.g:
‘Maps would also have been a good idea, as would Lonely Planet guides and a rough idea of where I’m heading. Instead I’m fumbling through blind, which is stupid given where I’m going.’
Koh Chang seems much quieter this year, which isn’t really surprising given the state of the world economy. But how much quieter? Some observations based on stats from this website.
Transfers. An indication of how tourism has slumped on Koh Chang can be seen in the change in the number of people booking private transfers to/from the island through this site. Enough people do this to give me a pretty good idea of how busy this island is overall in certain months, especially amongst families and the type of people staying at the better resorts who typically use these services.
In the past the numbers have always increased significantly year on year since this service started, which was about 4 years ago.
October 2008 was up about 15% on October 07. November 2008 was the same as November 2007 – no change, despite the news of the credit crunch that came out in early October. Then came the airport closure in December and the number of transfers dropped by about 30% compared to Dec 07, which wasn’t surprising given no one could fly in or out of the country for 10 days or so.
In January things were better, only around 10% down. This was to be expected, the airport was open and most people who had booked holidays weren’t going to cancel and lose their money. Overall, the official visitor arrival figures for Thailand as a whole were about 25% down in January but on Koh Chang most businesses and hotels had a good month. February has always been the busiest month for transfers mainly due to the large number of Scandinavian families visiting the island during this month. In February 2009 the number of transfers was down about 40% compared to Feb 2008.
Our guesthouse. No noticeable change until May as, thanks to having this website, we’re always about 95% from October/November onwards. Last May we were virtually full all month, but this year we’ll be about 60% occupancy. However, given the big picture, this is good enough for me. But hardly anyone is emailing for bookings in June/July/August yet which backs up the stories I keep seeing in the UK papers about more people planning vacations at home this year.
Hotel bookings. Again, enough people book hotels through the affiliate links on this site for me to get an idea about how far in advance people are booking their holidays etc. This past high season was better than that in 2007-08, which might sound like a bit like bullshit but two factors to take into account are that for a few months in 2007 the links were screwed up and so the affiliate programs didn’t work as they should, and that 6 months ago I added a lot more links for one of the affiliate programs to various pages on the site – making them harder to miss and increasing the odds of someone clicking on them and booking their hotel. But despite that the commission was still down about 20% on the 2006-07 High season.
Real Estate. That’s been on noticeable downturn since mid 2007. At first I thought it was because no-one was looking at this site anymore or I had succeeded in putting off too many people from buying here. But it turns out this was an early indicator of the bigger problems yet to come. More accurately, this was a late indicator as from early 2006 – early 2007 it was a very good time to be building & selling houses on Koh Chang & Koh Mak, whilst in many other places in Thailand things were already slowing down.
If you click here, you’ll see how the interest in Thai property, measured by the number of people searching for it on Google, has been on a steady downturn since early 2005 – well before the coup / military junta government / airport closure / protests in Bangkok etc etc.
Emails. This is the easiest trend to spot as I’ve got pretty much every email I’ve sent and received since 2005 archived. Until Nov 2008 the number of emails received was increasing annually by around 20-30% compared to the same month during the previous year. From December 2008 onwards it has dropped down to the same numbers I got during a typical rainy season month last year.
So, in the light of all that it isn’t really surprising to see a multitude of small resorts for sale and numerous businesses for sale or with the shutters down already.
According to Somchai the Soothsaying Styrofoam Stallion, pictured below, those that stick it out will benefit when things get back to normal in a couple of years time. And, as pagan deities go, Somchai can usually be relied on to tell you what you want to hear. Visit him at Klong Prao temple if you need an emotional crutch during these difficult times and your God is busy elsewhere. Works for me.