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Beaches a Talking Point as Phuket Governor Visits Europe's Largest Tourism Fair

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
PHUKET: Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong is likely to hear in person what travel agencies and European tourists think of Phuket's beach decisions when he visits Europe next week.

The governor of Thailand's popular holiday island will be in Bangkok briefly before heading to ITB Berlin, from March 4-8. Phuket usually has a significant presence.

The concern this year is likely to be about what's happened on Phuket's beaches since the military took charge in Thailand and cleared the sands of commerce and the foreshores of illegal beach clubs and restaurants.

The governor's attempt to find a balance between the old and the new has led to an extraordinary ban on all beach chairs at Phuket's beaches - even those that the tourists bring - and a regimented plan to corral all beach umbrellas in ''10 percent zones.''

The ban on beach chairs has yet to be implemented but onlookers forsee major problems for Phuket's image if police are forced to confiscate tourists' beach chairs.

The idea of forcing swimmers who bring their own umbrellas to share the same small proportion of the beach with renters who hire out umbrellas and mats is laughable.

The local renters don't want the personal umbrellas on the beaches so plenty of sand is expected to be kicked in tourists' faces if this farcical outcome is permitted to happen.

There would be no sand kicked in faces if Phuket had not outlawed sunbeds.

The sunbeds, apparently taking the blame for all of Phuket's beach woes, have been totally banned even though the umbrellas that used to accompany them have been allowed back, along with sunbed mats. Go figure.

Governor Nisit has said that his plan will be replaced if it doesn't work but in trying to force a compromise, plenty of European tourists are likely to look for other destinations in the meantime.

The governor has also allowed semi-permanent massage salas to return to Patong beach, Phuket's most commercial and most troubled beach.

Local residents say that homeless people have taken to sleeping under the massage salas and urinating in the shrubs nearby. Ladyboy transgender katoeys are also said to be keen to make assignations at night around the massage salas because of the comfort of the flat surface.

Phuket's prime beaches - Patong, Kata, Kamala and Karon - looked magnificent when the Army and the bulldozers did their work last year. Even with small swimmers' personal umbrellas dotting the sands, the vistas remained stunning.

With the governor allowing the return of commerce and the large rented umbrellas that, unlike the personal umbrellas, remain upright and block the view, the beaches are beginning to look sordid and seedy again.

A braver administrator might would have stuck with the military's original concept and kept the sands free of private enterprise. Swimmers with their own umbrellas and beach chairs don't damage the charming picture of Phuket's beaches looking just the way they should.

The hope is that the governor returns from Europe on March 8 inspired by the concept of natural beaches adorned only by what the tourists choose to bring with them, and freed of clutter at sunset each night.

A meeting of district authorities and Phuket City municipal staffers appointed officers to oversee each of the beaches that fall under the district's control. Officials appeared underwhelmed at their new roles. It is to be hoped that photographs of police taking beach chairs from tourists on Phuket do not become a talking point at ITB Berlin.

Comments

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Are the big business umbrellas occupying again the whole beaches or only 10 % ?

Posted by sand only on February 24, 2015 14:16

Editor Comment:

Varying proportions, mostly above 10 percent. It's easy to see what the governor has in mind - one line of umbrellas, neatly arrayed at the back of each beach. Achieving that is not easy. It may be impossible, given the way Phuket operates without enforcement.

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Strange phuketwan was again sunbeds a few months ago, and now agree that they are missing, how people can change.
But if we want to see the tourists back we need sunbeds in Phuket, just regulate them as in europe and we will have happy locals=happy tourists. Tax the operators and use the money to clean every morning the beaches. The governor and the military where clearing the beaches but forgot CLEANING the beaches every day, dont let it become as in Bali where the beaches and see are full of garbage

Posted by Eric on February 24, 2015 17:37

Editor Comment:

Sorry Eric, your point eludes us. It probably eludes you, too. We don't want sunbeds back. We would like to see the hired umbrellas banished as well again - as they were at the beginning of this sorry saga. With commerce creeping back, enforcement seems a faint hope. Better to make the rules plain and keep commerce banned.

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the best is, the Governor go one day to the beach and stay one day on the mat without Umbrella. Maybe then he can understand what he do to the older tourist.

Posted by Siegfried HAGNER on February 24, 2015 18:16

Editor Comment:

People don't need to stay in the sun if they don't want to, Siegfried.

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On my regular morning walk along Patong last Saturday I indulged in some mental exercise and paced out the various allocations of areas. The beach is divided into 11 sections; 6 for boat/jet ski operators and 5 roped off for swimmers.
The percentage split worked out to 57% and 43% respectively with the boat/ jetski operators clearly having a majority of the beach and water allocation.

Interestingly, assuming proportionate section allocations [which it isn???t] and not having to measure the sectioning; 6/11???s and 5/11???s is a 55% : 45% split which is close to my layman???s reckoning.

The boat/ Jet ski operators have two significant allocations with a 200 meter section of prime beach opposite Bangla Rd and 500 meter section at the bottom of Sawatdirak [continuation of Sainamyen]. These are both major access points for beach seekers and therefore potential customers and to allow easy access for launching of boats and jetskis from trailers. It???s a pity that swimmers cannot bathe at either location safely. Boats/ jetskis also have a 400 meter section at the southern end of the beach which is arguably the more polluted section due to the klong outfall and less desirable for swimming but ok for boating anchorage.

Signs on the beach are now deployed by the boat/ jetski operators to indicate water sport activity areas and display symbols representing ???no swimming??? and ???no sand castle building??? activities allowed for 200 meters. Beach chairs and lounges are now banned but there is still a small but growing contingent of recalcitrant, elderly expat/ retirees defying the ban. Seemingly not incarcerated yet!

There has been much re-positioning of the goal posts since the beach was technically cleared of commercial enterprise and much ongoing circular discussion and many knee jerk decisions made. These are simply my recent observations as I see the beach becoming increasingly dysfunctional for everyone excepting the obvious. The question is whether this is what is wanted for the future prosperity, conservation and sustainabiity of Patong Beach for all Thais, expats and tourists alike.

Posted by Pe-Terr on February 24, 2015 20:05

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Patong seems to be The most jetski friendly beach in the world among swimming beaches - great observations by Pe-Terr

Posted by Sue on February 25, 2015 00:20

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we all know give vendors 10 percent it will go 100 percent plus they want it all, doomed to fail be controversial corrupt as ever and drive tourists away

Posted by slckmelb on February 26, 2015 10:52

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A lot of people opinion Phuket beaches. In general we know now what tourist wants. Unfortunately the host ( Phuket island) is not asking what they tourist likes. Actually Phuket authorities ignore the tourist wishes. Lack of respect! To them tourists are just 'arrivals', x% up or x% down. Figures, not humans.
The idea of a Governor to find a balance between old and new is going to fail.In thai context of thinking it means,... crowl back slowly and 'fight' to get back the old. Until now everything is just local ruling, nothing is framed in laws, it gives the thai beach vendors room to move. They will take there time and get back their 'old'. Governors talk and just stay a very short time on Phuket, not like the permanent beach vendors. Their chairs and umbrellas are 'just waiting around the corner'. The Phuket Governor beach percentage plans are like trying to drive a car without petrol. Beach vendors don't think in percentage, same as all the tuk-tuks and limousines park in Patong as they want at road sides where it is not allowed, and no Phuket authority who do something about it. That is Phuket. Don't look for better, do not have hopes. NCPO is not having time for Phuket, it its much more busy with non Phuket issues.

Posted by Kurt on February 26, 2015 18:51

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For Phuket Governor probably some nice welcome words in Berlin. But for sure there will be zero % understanding for the %% area rules at Phuket beaches. No understanding how respectless tourist are treated at beaches the last few weeks.No understanding for more and more Jet skies ( many without insurance). No understanding why jet sky operators are not checked on skills, licenses and bringing increasing dangers to tourist swimmers. No understanding why the jet sky oerators are the Masters of Phuket beaches. In Berlin everybody waits the Phuket Governor. it will be a culture shock for the Governor.

Posted by Kurt on February 26, 2015 19:11

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We usually visit Phuket annually but not this year due to being unable to rent a sunbed and umbrella. We have taken our holiday elsewhere and will not return until renting is permitted. We do not want to buy umbrellas and chairs and drag them to the beach or be forced to sit in regimented rows in a 10% area while the rest of the beach has lots of space but is unable to be enjoyed comfortably. I do not think we are the only tourists voting with our feet.

Posted by Anonymous on February 28, 2015 23:29


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