Over the course of just a few decades, Koh Samui has developed from a bohemian hang out to a playground for the wealthy and discerning travellers. Conventional tourism development started back in the 1970s and 80s when the first guesthouses and modest hotels started drawing the attention of adventurous travellers with an appetite for the unexplored and an authentic tropical island experience. As the island's popularity grew throughout the 1990s, more mainstream travellers arrived and when the first international five star hotel chains opened in the 2000s, Koh Samui had already become one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia, attracting an increasingly sophisticated clientele.
Throughout the early stages of development, the island's property market also changed and evolved. In the beginning it was mainly local investment driving the local real estate industry, but as the island became more popular, foreign investors started to arrive, spending money on both commercial real estate and the hospitality industry.
During the noughts, foreign investment started pouring into residential real estate and the market grew hotter and hotter until the global financial crisis hit in 2008 and prices cooled, along with investor confidence. Many investors who had only a year previously been able to flip their properties with a double digit return on investment were forced to cut their losses, and they started to look elsewhere for opportunities.
It has taken a few years for Koh Samui's property industry to rebound from the crisis, but developers are increasingly reporting a return of foreign investors eager to tap into the island's popularity and the increasing number of tourists that visit every year. The Samui property industry has become more focused on the long term, which is more sustainable not only for the industry itself but for the island as a whole.
Another factor that has helped the island's property sector move onto a more sustainable path is the introduction of better regulations by local authorities, who now acknowledge the importance of sustainability in order for the island to retain its beauty and main selling point. Infrastructure investment and improved water and waste management are also ensuring that Koh Samui remains one of the most beautiful and convenient places in Thailand to live for many years to come.