LANTA ISLAND PROPERTY NEWSLETTER

Koh Lanta Bridge2 – Connected to the Mainland by 2023

The long touted bridge between Koh Lanta Yai and Noi hasn’t had the opportunity yet to even gain a couple of potholes and already Lanta is being promised ‘Koh Lanta Bridge2’. This newly approved bridge will connect the Lanta Islands to the Krabi mainland. We ask, “is this a good thing?”

We wrote an article several years ago, and I recall feeling that the then – estimated number of tourist arrivals to the Island was inflated at 300,000 people per year. Now we read in the Phuket Gazette, that a second bridge, to connect the Lanta Islands to the Krabi mainland, is “required” due to the 5 million people that currently use the ferries every year!!

It is amazing how little Koh Lanta has grown up. This might well be the single most important local development- perhaps in Koh Lanta’s (at least modern) history.

new-koh-lanta-bridge-2Approved by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom, the 1.5 km bridge is expected to be completed by 2023 and will cost in the region of 800M Thai Baht or just a shade over $23M USD. This follows the completion of the first bridge, which connected the Lanta Noi and Yai Islands in April 2016, which removed the need for one of the two ferry journeys of the past.
A little history (if you didn’t know already): Before any of this bridge talk, there were two ways you could arrive on Koh Lanta; and both were by boat. There were (and still are) passenger ferries running through the high season (Nov – April), which can be taken from Krabi / Ao Nang and Phuket / Koh Phi Phi directly to Saladan, Koh Lanta’s main town. To bring a vehicle or to arrive out of the high season or from somewhere else, you would have to ‘run the gauntlet’ of a car ferry from the mainland to Koh Lanta Noi, do the short drive across Lanta Noi, and then board another ferry for the short ride to Koh Lanta Yai (the one with resorts).

Due to tides, weather, malfunction or just high demand, this sometimes could take hours & hours to leave or arrive to and from the Island. With the introduction of the first bridge connecting Noi and Yai islands, today the trip to Krabi Airport is pretty much a constant at 75 – 90 minutes. This journey time will be dramatically reduced and made even more constant with the completion of Koh Lanta Bridge2.

Let’s make no bones about this- for the people of Koh Lanta, This is H U G E ! !

The fear is this: will the connection of a tropical Island to the mainland result in PARADISE LOST? Will the ease with which anyone will be able to visit Koh Lanta bring about mass tourism and remove all of the island’s charm and culture?  Which was the reason select people chose to visit the island in the first place!

For those expats that have bought into this dream that is Koh Lanta; built houses, resorts, businesses or started a relaxed retirement; will the potential of mass tourism change the quiet, tropical island vibe to something new and different?

The stunning and pristine beaches, the jungle covered mountains, the happy smiling locals, the stutter of long-tail boats, the picture postcard sunsets… is this all doomed?

Will Koh Lanta experience a huge shift in the type of tourist and visitors? Will the high-season-long staying Lantanian, morph into a bus-riding package tourist who only has 24 hours to “experience” the Island before they rush on to the next destination?

Is this the catalyst for the onslaught of fast food chains, supermarkets, optical stores and a liberal spattering of even more 7-Elevens?

Actually, we don’t think so and we could have (at least some of) the answers to the questions currently on a Lanta local’s lips…

What’s Happening at Krabi International Airport?

The global travel market is changing, and here are some interesting facts and figures regarding KIA; recently published by the team at www.c9hotelworks.com.

The top five international connections to Krabi are from Asia; three from China and the remaining two are KL and Singapore.

“Year-on-year overseas visitors from both international and domestic flights increased to 761,045 in 2015 vs. 523,140 in 2014, a rise of 45%. This growth was fueled by an uplift of arrivals from Mainland China and Malaysia which rose by 134% and 20% respectively, while Scandinavia, Singapore and Russia contracted by 7%, 12% and 78%, respectively.”

Throughout 2015, tourist arrivals from mainland China accounted for 61% of travelers through KIA- up from 38% in 2014.

Let’s face it; the Chinese market for anything is massive. So why should package holidays be any different? Especially as China is relatively close when compared to traditional Northern European tourist sources. It is very possible that passports inspected by immigration at Krabi International Airport could be changing.

All of this, of course, is good for business. Aside from where the usual tourist spends their hard-earned cash locally, most certainly the real estate market will be affected. Land prices will increase, new developers will arrive, house prices will increase, and rental properties will be booked. And at the same time certain people will want to leave and sell their Lanta property; making way for a new expat who will appreciate this new Koh Lanta and want to purchase a house of ‘their’ particular dreams.

new-koh-lanta-bridge-1Not All About Business

Obviously, it should not be all about ‘business’. The authorities in Koh Lanta should be very careful to preserve the essence of the Island; the very reason why people from so far wish to visit and stay.

We are confident that the district government has observed the detrimental effects of poor management of the integration of mass tourism on other islands in Thailand and are wise enough to prevent the same thing happening again. Lest we forget that Koh Lanta is a National Marine Park; and so has some protection in place to deter the over-development of the Island.

Koh Lanta Bridge2 will mean a whole lot to the local people of the Island; the decreased journey times to anywhere and a reduced cost to do so. Medical emergencies would be easier to deal with, trash can now be recycled more cost effectively. Also the fragile marine ecosystems will not be affected by oil and diesel spewing from the lumbering ferries….the list of benefits goes on.

Then imagine the benefits from the increased commerce from the growth in tourism; increased revenues, more jobs, more taxes, and more municipal spending on projects for the benefit of the community.

What do we think? We like Koh Lanta as it is! However, no one can deny the Islanders their share of progress.

The key here is how this potential growth is managed by the authorities; we think they can do a great job. Especially with the various initiatives already in place such as the compost project, recycling, and beach clean-ups to name just a few. Koh Lanta is a cosmopolitan island with people from all walks of life. All determined to ensure the Island stays beautiful for future generations.

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© www.lantaislandproperty.com 2016

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