Samui Wining & Dining
Super TAKS

The Tourist Association of Koh Samui

106The ITB is the world’s leading travel trade show. Held in Berlin every year (usually in March), it’s known in the travel industry as the most important showcase for resorts, hotels, airlines and holiday destinations worldwide. And inside a colourful booth there (and at other trade shows like it), officially representing Koh Samui, you’ll find a group of enthusiastic dedicated people belonging to The Tourist Association of Koh Samui (TAKS).


Sponsored by the Provincial Administrative Organization of Suratthani and the Koh Samui Municipality, TAKS operates under the leadership of its appointed president, Dr. Bunnasart Ruengchan, a Samui local who’s been witness to the phenomenal growth in tourism over the last two decades. TAKS is a non-profit organization, numbering over 100 members, including hotels and resorts, restaurants, travel professionals and retail establishments. It was formed in 1987 for the purpose of promoting Koh Samui as a travel destination. And, clearly, it’s been very successful in this task. Koh Samui is now an established and very popular tourist Mecca, attracting close to a million visitors annually. But, as Khun Naddapen Toommanon (Nok), one of the TAKS vice-presidents, explained, they don’t intend on sitting back on their laurels. Far from it, as there are many new challenges ahead.


Not only does TAKS promote the island as a luxury tourist destination but it also intuitively works to improve every aspect of the visitors’ experience once here. Their goal is for Samui to become an up-market sophisticated ‘Resort Island’ whilst retaining its natural beauty and tropical charm. They work closely with the Human Resources departments in hotels, assisting and advising on higher levels of service skills. And TAKS is very aware of the environmental issues facing the island, and is in close liaison with the Green Project. (Khun Nok told of how, despite the possible benefit of expats with high expendable incomes coming to Koh Samui, TAKS is very much against the proposed offshore drilling for oil.)


And they meet regularly with the Tessaban (local government) to discuss vital matters, like planning, infrastructure, utilities and transportation. TAKS sub-committees are active in helping organise events on the island. Having joined forces with the Thai Hotel Association (THA), many calendar events are now successfully established. And in April this year, Samui saw its inaugural ‘International Samui Island Triathlon’ take place. Also in April, they held a ‘Hospitality Summer Camp’ for students from Bangkok to learn about 5-star hotel etiquette, and the finer things in life. The forward thinking people at TAKS understand that these diversified events and happenings are helping Samui to evolve in the 21st century. In this fast developing region, the local market is not one that should be overlooked.


And the recent economic downturn means that the, previously lucrative, market of visitors from Western Europe has declined. Exasperated by poor exchange rates and higher airfares due to higher fuel costs, the long-haul market is not as buoyant as it once was. But Samui is extremely well-placed geographically to benefit from the growth areas for foreign tourist arrivals; places such as South Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China. TAKS is focusing on India and China, in particular. Visitor numbers from these two emerging giants could, potentially, grow exponentially. But the challenge for TAKS is to make sure Samui can adapt to what these new tourists want. Slightly more demanding than their easy-going western counterparts, who are instantly enamored by Samui’s tropical climate and gorgeous beaches, the people from the (laterally similar) sub-continent of India, need more pampering. Their culture tends to pander to the needs of those who can afford it. If they can get it right, a hotel, restaurant or spa will be well placed to reap the rewards of this ever-increasing market.


Chinese visitors also present new challenges, culturally similar to Thais in some respects, their newfound freedoms have made them hungry for new experiences. And it’s the young generation that’s expected to travel the most. Already, there’s a brisk trade in Samui with Taiwanese honeymoon packages. But the Chinese generally come in larger groups, bringing their own tour guides with them. Not being beach lovers, they expect more in the way of excursions and activities. And the new generation of Chinese nationals can be extremely fashionable, up on all the latest trends in architecture, music, food and clothes. So Samui has room to develop its trendy in-vogue side, something that has already started to happen with the opening of trendsetting resorts like Beach Republic. The island’s spas should also benefit from this change in demographic, as should the more up-market shopping outlets.


Khun Nok described how the demand for weddings in Samui is increasing, particularly with guests from South Asia. And how, over the last few years, Samui has commendably progressed in its standard of restaurants. Today, the island can probably boast even more fine dining restaurants than Phuket. It’s truly amazing how the quality of food and beverage has risen, helped by expat chefs, to international levels. There are some Samui restaurants serving food that would not be out of place on the tables in the some of the finest eating establishments in New York, Paris and Tokyo.


Combine all these universal attractions, with the natural beauty of Samui, and you get a winning formula for appealing to foreign visitors, regardless of culture. TAKS certainly has its work cut out in ensuring that all the little details work properly. But the big picture is surely one of continued future success. Koh Samui is now firmly marked on the tourist map. And the good folks at TAKS will be helping to make sure that, not only does it stay there but that it also grows in international reputation.


Peter James


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