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The Royal Phuket Marina through the eyes of Jeanette Skelton
4th May 2006
One of the most talked about, eagerly anticipated and luxurious new projects on Phuket is the softly opening Royal Phuket Marina. Promising waterfront villas with boat berths as well as penthouses and condos, eateries, bars, fashion outlets, a spa and charter boat companies, its sales and marketing, PR and event manager all rolled into one, Jeanette Skelton, is a glamorous ex-Hong Konger with brains as well as beauty - who has fallen in love with the place.

“The project is beautiful,” she says. “There’s nothing else on the island sophisticated enough to have brought me here from Hong Kong. There really is nothing that matches up to it. It will be the St Tropez of the East.”

It was the foresight of Gulu Lalvani, founder and chairman of the world’s second biggest manufacturer of cordless phones Binatone Telecom Group that initiated this project. A long-term Phuket fan and one of the original holiday home residents of Amanpuri, although he had actually retired, he came back to working life to realise his dream.

Previously prohibitive taxes on importing boats crippled the marine tourism industry and it was Lalvani who promised Prime Minister Thaksin that if he abolished the 200% taxes he would create a marina to rival those in the South of France and the US. A 6million Baht investment later and the marina is well on its way to delivering on that promise.

Skelton shares his dream, and envisages the marina’s place on the international party circuit - and with all the different outlets that will be there, she’s probably spot on.

“At the moment there aren’t that many high end places to go to if you want to venture out. But this is exactly what we are creating. There will be events on the boardwalk, entertainment in the square, bars to drink at as the sun goes down and a number of places for dinner. You will be able to sit and watch the boats coming and going… This is what Phuket lacks. And it drives me mad because this is what I want too.”

So far bakery/deli Les Anges, the Freeflow Yoga Centre aboard an Indonesian boat and a couple of boat charter companies have opened. “Les Anges is popular from breakfast until cocktail hour and dinner at night,” says Skelton. “Peter’s patisseries and cakes are world class. The locals are very impressed with the décor, ambience and food. Roxanne de Guzman, our amazing yoga/pilates and fitness guru is creating a wonderful energy around the marine with her aqua aerobics, yoga and pilates classes.”

Of course there is much still to do with a gourmet supermarket and high end fashion stores by Malini Ramini who has outlets in Bali and Goa, and will be opening at the marina towards the end of the year. But investors aren’t waiting for everything to open. In true Phuket real estate fashion they are already snapping up the units as fast as they can hand over the dollars.

“All the buyers believe so much in the project and want it to happen, so there is already a huge support network,” Jeanette says.
The buyers fall mainly into the expat market, with Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Thailand well represented. From further afield Belgian, Italian, American, French, Indian, Turkish and Thai buyers have invested so far. Most fall into the 38 to mid 50s category. Jeanette explains the main reason Phuket is pulling so much international investment in is because it is a short plane ride from so many destinations and because it is not hard to rent the property while they are elsewhere.

“Yachting brings high spending individuals to Phuket,” says Lalvani. “Tourists like those who arrive quietly in their graceful yachts, to explore the delightful culture, the food and the beauty of the environment. The Royal Phuket Marina will become the top end of Phuket’s marine leisure industry, and will do what the Amanpuri has done for traditional resort development in creating standards worthy of Phuket, and Thailand as one of the world’s great travel and yachting destinations.”

It seems that what Lalvani missed in Phuket touches a nerve in many others. “He discovered early 90s Phuket and realised he had discovered paradise: all year round sailing. He bought a villa at Amanpuri and joined up with the Hong Kong crowd who flock over there for Christmas and New Year,” explains Jeanette. “He had to drive to the east coast to get to his boat, and he asked himself, “Why not have a home I can park my boat in front of, just like in Florida?” He divides his time between Hong Kong, London, Turkey and now Phuket.

“It is going crazy here,” she says talking about Phuket real estate, “but there’s so much land and space still. There are lots of cowboys getting on the bandwagon, and shoddy developments springing up. In a few years time it could be like the Costa Del Sol if we’re all not careful.”

The prices at the marina aren’t as skyrocketingly high as you might expect. “On the whole it’s a good price, says Jeanette. “Our two-bedroom condos start at 294,000USD – whereas Allan Zeman’s villas are starting at 1.6million.”

They do, however, have prices to rival those, with their waterfront villas with boat berth priced at USD1.6million. “We cannot compare with any other development on the island as we are offering so much more, with the marina berths at the doorstep, the restaurants, bars, shopping, spa, yoga etc. However, even with all the facilities that will be available our prices are on a par with other five star developments on the island.”

She traces the developments of various outlets, which will bring in the crowds and create the vibrant atmosphere the area will be known for. Lotus Laguna will be the main restaurant, with chef Mick Anthony from Rockfish fame.

“So far the majority of our buyers are from Hong Kong, with nine Cathay Pilots already signed up. And now there is a community happening. I put these people together and email them about regattas, parties. It’s great to have a bit of life around, people around, choice of restaurants and the opportunity to see big boats. It’s a big marina but you’ll be able to have your boat come to your doorstep – it will feel like a deserted island in places.”

Currently there are only four and two bedroom penthouses and standard condos left for sale. “There is a good buzz [here],” says Jeanette. “There are about half a dozen condo owners already in with more moving in within the next few months. [When fully open} our clients will have everything at their fingertips from restaurants, bars, cafes, fashion, gourmet supermarket, bank, book shop, hairdressers etc, including Phang Nga Bay and hundreds of deserted beaches within 15 minutes of leaving the marina. They don’t need to move off the premises once they arrive and as our clients arrive stressed out from their city life they want everything to be as easy as possible once they get to their resort destination.”

So far 30% of the condo owners have their own boats, and for those without there will be a Cruising Club to join, where you can buy a timeshare on a boat. Pay a certain amount and be captain for a certain amount of days per year. “It’s perfect,” says Jeanette. “There will be five or seven people sailing in a rosta. That way the boat owner costs are fractional.”

For more information check out www.royalphuketmarina.com
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