Patong (Thailand): With over 25 Indian restaurants in this tourist town in Phukhet, eateries like Tantra, Indian Curry Club and Ali Baba are adding much variety to the international cuisine already available, keeping their cash registers ringing.
“We are seeing a boom among Indian restaurants here,” says Kolkata-born Aaffzal Khan, 39, the proprietor of the largest Indian food chains in this town located in the southern province of Thailand, who started his operations here around five years ago.
“Currently there are over 25 restaurants serving Indian food here alone. All are stand-alone restaurants. This trend started two-three years ago when thousands of Indians started coming here. These eateries are a rage among all the people,” Khan said.
You cannot dispute him either.
A walk around the famous Bangla street, known for a Thai kick-boxing stadium, night life and massage parlours, gives a glimpse of the dozens of eateries with the familiar Indian names. The clientele is cosmopolitan, though the flow of Indians has helped.
“This year, we expect 60,000 Indians in Phuket — double the numbers last year. In the next few years it is expected to go up to 100,000-plus,” said Bangornrat Chinaprayoon, director of state-run Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Andre A. Gomez, general manager at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort, said that weddings and receptions being hosted by Indians were also making Indian food popular since chefs are being trained to handle the diverse Indian cuisine.
“Last month, we had a grand Indian wedding here — 400-odd guests. Everyone wanted Indian food, even the non-Indian guests. Why them alone? Even our guests from other countries like Indian food and want it for variety,” Gomez said.
David Lance, operations director of Courtyard Marriot in Patong, said Indian food was in such a high demand that his hotel was not just recruiting Indian chefs but also training some of its own by asking those from the Marriots in India to come by for short stints.
“We have a huge variety of Indian food — we can even cater to Jains, Buddhists, south Indians,” Lance said, adding: “This calls for high-quality cooking, best of ingredients and above all masters of the craft.”
Chinaprayoon believes there will be further demand for Indian food with her office now collaborating with the travel trade industry in India to bring both budget and upmarket travellers to Phuket.
“People during holidays look for comfort, joy. Thousands of Indians are travelling abroad for the first time. Food I understand is a matter of concern. That’s why we worked with hotels, restaurants to serve them their food and make them comfortable.”
Agrees Keyur Joshi, chief operating officer and co-founder of MakeMyTrip.com, which is among the Indian travel trade companies that have tied up with the Tourism Authority of Thailand for launching holiday packages to Phuket and Bangkok.
“Our holiday packages to Thailand are inclusive of economy ticket, stay, excursions and most importantly food, which includes any type of Indian food the traveller may desire,” said Joshi, adding: “We cannot let food leave a bad taste among travellers.” By Rohit Vaid