Understanding The Drivers Of Long Stay Retirement In Hua Hin - Hua Hin Property Listing

Understanding The Drivers Of Long Stay Retirement In Hua Hin

March 7, 2015

Thailand has become one of the top spots, not only for vacationing or working but also as a retirement option for elderly Western retirees.The research in this study was conducted in Hua Hin, in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Thailand which is known as the “retirement haven” of Thailand. The target respondents were foreigners holding long stay retirement visas residing in Hua Hin. A well structured questionnaire was distributed to 239 respondents over a period of four days in the month January 2013. The findings revealed that respondents have no desire to make a living or to earn income, but come to pursue their own personal interests. They have regular income from their past savings or other sources of funds from their home country. Their main reasons for migrating to Hua Hin were to enjoy their retirement as people, who admire peace, cleanliness and easy going Thai lifestyle. The findings established that location, cost of living and medical back up had significant positive relationships with the choice of Hua Hin as a long stay retirement destination. Some recommendations based on the findings were made.

1. Introduction

Tourism has become a very important activity in people’s lives. Tourism, however, not only describes the movement of people from one destination to the other or the means of providing a site for entertainment and leisure, but also refers to the often critical role it plays in the economy of many countries as measured in terms of GDP contribution. Many nations derive a large share of their gross earnings from tourism.

The tourism industry is viewed as feeding a country’s economy, stimulating the development process, restoring its cultural heritage (although it may also have adverse effects in terms of site preservation), and helping to maintain international peace and understanding. It also largely contributes to cultural integration.

Asia is widely regarded as destined to be the prime destination for tourism in the near future despite economic and political driven setbacks, threats of terrorism, and the current recession in Europe which has undermined many potential tourists’ ability to travel. One o f the reasons for the expected rise in tourist flows to the region is its perception as a “good” place for retirement. This is especially true of Southeast Asia.

One of the top concerns for ageing parents and singles is where and when to retire. While the answer to these queries would be expected to be ‘ home ,’ surprisingly, a number of people actually choose to retire in place s outside their countries; places which they think are most suited for them and their income. Take the United States, for example, many retirees move to Mexico as they cannot afford a comfortable retirement at home. Likewise, many also relocate in Southeast Asia, Thailand in particular.

Although Thailand is still somehow in the process of re – constructing its image fro m the October, 2011 flood and some previous political upheavals, it continues to feature among the top travel destination s right behind the “four giants” (France, the United States, Italy, and China respectively). This year (2013), 20 million tourists are expected to flock the country.

One of the challenges the country faces while continuing to restore its image is making tourists stay longer. Long stay retirement tourism lends itself to this purpose.

Long stay retirement tourism has adapted to an ageing structure format more so than a socio-culture format. Countries worldwide are trying to adopt long stay retirement tourism by drawing the attention of ageing citizens and luring them to retire in their countries where they can match their cost of living and quality of life, all the more as people have more capital, resources and education to enjoy leisure time than in the past. Thailand has become one of the top spots for not only vacationing or working but as a place to retire, especially for older Western tourists.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thailand was named the 9th Best Country for Overseas Retirement. Thailand is an immensely popular destination for tourists – as evidenced by the nearly 18 million who visited the country in 2012 – is also well regarded for its retirement opportunities. The “land of s miles ” (as it is commonly known for) scores highly in two specific categories: cost of living and entertainment & amenities.

A Migration Report issued in 2011 estimated the foreign population residing and working in Thailand to be 3,514,831 by the end of 2009 (Huguet, 2011). The trend is likely to rise in the future.

In 1998, Thailand introduced a limited “Retirement Visa. “According to the TTA (Thailand Tourism Authority), its purpose is to offer a “long – stay” visa in order to spare long – stay tourists the worry about costs (Thailand Tourism Authority, 2012).

The Government guidelines on long-stay retirement visas requires among others that foreign national s be 55 years old or above. It also requires retirees to have at least 800,000 baht (US$25,000) in the bank and prove a monthly income of 65,000 baht (US$2,100). Permission to stay in the kingdom will be granted for one year upon arrival in t he kingdom. Extension for one year at a time will be granted as long as the qualifications as stated above are met (Thailand Tourism Authority, 2012).

This study focuses on the push factors that contribute to the growing number of retirees electing Thailand as a retirement destination. Specifically, it looks at one of the most favored area for retirees, Hua Hin, in the province Prachuap Khiri Khan, a small and attractive beach resort about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, known for being the summer residence of the Majesty the King of Thailand and a pl ace that has retained some of its old – world charm. Once a sleepy fishing village, Hua Hin has now a population of more than 125,000 and lots of unmarked hotels, restaurants, and high – rise condominiums. The town attracts expats who prefer a more sedated life of leisure and sports, away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or Pattaya. Perhaps because of its royal connections (the current king still visits from time to time) the town retains a more genteel atmosphere. There is no brash nightlife scene but if tourists want that, it is only four hours by road from the capital. Hua Hin also has some of the best golf courses in the country.

In addition, Hua Hin boasts long stretches of beach within walking distance, royal connection, which means very good security and a very low crime rate, leisure activities, good shopping facilities, and cultural events (e.g. an annual Jazz Festival).

On the negative side, Hua Hin still lacks an international – standard hospital for serious medical cases , and has been seeing rising property prices. Food and public transport costs are higher than in other places.

After reviewing the relevant literature and introducing the conceptual framework and research methodology, this article focusing on the findings of the survey which will be analyzed and discussed. It ends with concluding remarks and some recommendations.