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By the time the signs have been read, the tide may have gone out

Kiteboards Bad, Jet-Skis Good: Phuket Remains Confused About What Beachlovers Want

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
PHUKET: Researchers analysing Phuket's all-important beaches have been granted one more month to compile a document that probably won't provide all the answers that authorities are seeking.

What island officials want are simple, straightforward solutions that satisfy all the stakeholders. But Phuket's beaches are more complicated than that.

And some topics remain taboo.

While commerce is officially banned from all beaches, except in the 10 percent space ordained by the governor, scores of jet-skis have been allowed to take over large chunks of the holiday island's premium swimming beach, Patong.

And the noisy, polluting machines were not mentioned at all in today's three-hour meeting.

Kiteboards, on the other hand, which are not noisy or polluting, are banned from Phuket's beaches. Operators of a kiteboard business at Nai Thon were recently told to leave the beach, the gathering heard.

Today's meeting was significant with Governor Nisit Jansomwong and all three vice governors present at Phuket Provincial Hall, together with about 100 local officials and beach stakeholders.

The level of awareness of Phuket's beaches and what happens on them was highlighted when all three vice governors said they did not know what a kiteboard was or how it worked.

They were shown a video on a mobile telephone.

It is difficult not to form the impression that many of the people who are now making vital decisions about Phuket's beaches do not visit the beaches often and have little understanding of ''beach culture.''

One of Phuket's honorary consuls pointed out a little while ago that the decision to ban sunbeds completely from all Phuket beaches was probably made by someone who did not realise that elderly Westerners, used all their lives to chairs, are unable to sit on a beach mat at sand level the way most Thais, whatever their age, can manage with relative ease.

Since the military took over in Thailand and cleared commerce from all the beaches in June last year, debates and sometimes arguments have continued about what should be done and whether the umbrellas and sunbeds should be allowed to return.

There will be no serious problems now until November, when the high season comes and beachlovers return in large numbers.

Whatever problems have not been sorted by then will become acute, especially if the beachlovers do not return in large numbers.

The man who today won a month's extension is Prince of Songhkla University lecturer and researcher Pun Tongchumnum.

While he was hesitant to say too much conclusively at this stage, he did say that 470 beach tourists had been questioned.

They were, apparently, mostly keen on safety as an issue. Sunbeds and umbrellas were considered important, jet-skis and speedboat parasailers less important.

The researchers talked to the tourists on arrival and on departure. The messages delivered on departure were reportedly not encouraging.

Governor Nisit made the point that he wanted the 10 percent zoning and tourism to sit contendedly alongside each other, without conflict.

But as everyone who has spent any time on Patong beach knows, that's easier said than done.

Angering and alienating tourists has been the only clear result of the dramatic changes on Phuket's beaches.

A full commitment to a more natural approach could work, but the authorities instead seem determined to impose a compromise and regimentation of what tourists can and cannot do that local officials will only enforce with the greatest reluctance.

Nobody want to take beach chairs from beneath elderly tourists' bums.

The only ones with smiles on their faces so far are the jet-ski operators and the director of Phuket's Marine Office 5. Even those smiles are not likely to last long if beachloving tourists decide not to return from November.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


"...... when the high season comes and beachlovers return in large numbers."

Call me doomsayer, but I don't think so.

Posted by sascha on May 26, 2015 17:54


I don't know the legality of all these decisions, but if the order was from the top to rid the beaches of commerce, what serious mandate does any local official have to be making rules? I do recall the Governor's 10% plan having some central government approval, but beyond that surely everything else that is a compromise to the original orders from central government are, to all intents and purposes, against the law.

In principle, a level of power devolution to the local level is a good thing, but it is clear the local level have no real understanding of the international side of these issues (i.e. tourism), so perhaps these decisions should be made by central government, be fair and equitable across the country.

Hua Hin have a plan initiated locally I believe regarding areas/ zones for kiteboarding offshore. I doubt it's perfect but there is some logic to it, whereas Phuket cannot even look elsewhere for ideas as the powers-that-be appear to think they know it all.

An honesty pill appears very hard for those people to swallow.

Posted by Duncan on May 26, 2015 18:51


There is nothing to study and nothing to thing about: enough to copy! There are many beaches in the world in other many countries: easy to learn...
Unfortunately for us (and tourism) Thais born already learned.

Posted by dave on May 26, 2015 18:57


Phuket will only be left with chinese tourists. The "quality" tourists will move on to Phang Nga, Khao Lak and so on.
Unfortunately a succession of head-in-the sand governors, coupled with some vested interests, have destroyed Phuket's reputation.
Had they listened to the "customers" via the honorary consuls the island wouldn't be in this dire situation.

Posted by jimbo34 on May 26, 2015 19:12


Hard to believe it is 2015 and Phuket as an Island don't realise what the Tourists want -, hence the reason you see less and less Western Tourists, which in the past Are happy to spend money, in Phuket and contribute to the local economy...

Posted by Robert on May 26, 2015 19:12


Complete joke...the kind that isn't funny. Not only are Thai officials incapable of understanding tourist needs and desires, they remain beholden to the very things that tourists hate the most...jetskis. I also have no confidence that the good intentioned folks at Prince of Songhkla University. Their survey does nothing but beg the answers they are looking is a joke. I think the only thing good I can say about the state of the beaches OK, I have nothing good to say. They are now filthy as hell, but at least the life guards are back itting around smoking and playing with their phones. Tsk tsk

Posted by Richard Vickers on May 26, 2015 19:19


what is phuket so confused about?...nobody wants para sails and jet skiis

Posted by sky on May 26, 2015 19:27


What a joke the powers to be on Phuket are, they have no idea at all, the place is dying slowly.

Posted by coxo on May 26, 2015 19:30


Just don't go there. Problem solved. Krabi, Trang, Songkhla, Khanom, Srichon and Phang-nga all have clean and quiet beaches free of the crap you have to put up with on Phuket. Join the exile and boycott Phuket until jet skis are gone and the beaches are cleaned up.

Posted by Arun Muruga on May 26, 2015 19:55


Out of the "million" people who arrive to Phuket they managed to question 470.

We all know who the Governor works for, by the people who elected him.

Oh I forgot, he wasn't elected.

Posted by Tbs on May 26, 2015 21:07


I agree. Get rid of the jet skis and clean the bloody beaches up. There's trash everywhere! What was the point of all this if Phuket's beaches look like a garbage dump? I watch as tourists are walking on the sand trying to sidestep and avoid it. What's wrong with this picture? Duh.

Posted by Paradise on May 26, 2015 22:19


For your information

12:14 onwards - does this ring a bell?

Posted by sam wilko on May 26, 2015 23:06


The lights are on, but nobodies home!

Posted by Sean on May 26, 2015 23:39


I was in Phuket last June, was happy when the military started the drives to fix/reform the tuk this, taxies, clean up beaches etc. But there are still many question marks, it's impossible to travel from one beach to the other without paying rip off prices to tuk tuk or taxi's. There is also no proper transport within patong. This year I am making my way to ko samui -where songthew rides are easy to get between beaches/places and come at pre fixed prices starting thb20!! No haggling, no mess!! This what phuket needs, the mayors just need to put some sense into their thinking!!

Posted by Deepak on May 27, 2015 00:37


Is this a joke? A Meeting in Phuket provincial Hall , with 100 local officials and 'beach stake holders'?
Just for talks about the Phuket beach problems? Problems created by the Phuket officials? Government should rule! Beach stake holders should be informed afterward how flexible Government and Phuket Marin 5 Office is with perhaps giving more space to jet ski stake holders.
And another joke is surely that vice governors not even know what kite surfing is.
I am sure the important outcome of this meeting was confirmation of no smoking and no eating on the beach, because Phuket government not have the budget for bringing in rubbish bins in the beaches + daily cleaning.

100 people in a meeting in Provincial hall! That brings up again the question why they have to pay for conference space in a Phuket town hotel to meet Consuls, and or thai officials from Bangkok?

Posted by Kurt on May 27, 2015 08:18


The smile on the faces of the jet ski operators and director of Phuket Marine Office 5 invites a NCPO investigation.
1: Renting out jet skies to unlicensed people is a crime.
2: Giving the jet ski operators 50% of Patong beach brings up questions to be asked by Bangkok Government and order the Phuket governor to correct this
( Krabi governor was able to handle it)
3:NCPO should stop this laughing Phuket drama of cloudless people.
4: It is time to investigate bank accounts of people who allow jet ski operators to operate as it is now. Just to clear them of involvement.

Posted by Kurt on May 27, 2015 09:29


There will not be any "high season" this year.I have, friends many of them use to come to Phuket every highseason, but now, after all the stupid new rules from the Governor and the Thai Army, they find other beautiful, cheaper and cleaner places than Phuket, and with less sex industry than in the Thailand.
Good luck to the Thai tourist industry coming season......with 2 million umbrella wearing Chinese cheap Charlies.

Posted by Expat Norway on May 27, 2015 12:08


Its easy what beach lovers want, regulated rental of sunbeds and umbrellas, possibility to have a drink and a meal, maybe a jet ski ride also this can be regulated if there is a will from the governor and local interested people.

Today in Kata 4star hotels offer rooms at 1200 baht incl breakfast and have 30% occupancy. We all know that they even not cover the cost!!!

Posted by Eric on May 27, 2015 12:53

Editor Comment:

You are talking about returning to the past, Eric. That isn't going to happen.


Let's keep hoping that one day this greedy and Insane attitude and behaviour from Phuket's Jet ski's, Parasails, Tuk tuk's, motor bike rentals (without proper valid drivers license renting out to inexperienced and not insured tourists) gets to a halt. Please stay aware that Thai government officials are also involved into these scams. Police & Governor keep a blind eye to all this although they must have awarness of it. Only people with good vision and good intention and proper tourism knowledge should be leading and running this place. Phuket is the rice bowl for many but governed by people with daily lobster on their menu and who's kids can attend "British schools" and overseas studies. It is time for a huge asset check for all those at the top and all benefiting in extreme from beach chairs rental and Umbrella fees. I'm in favor to supply tourists from needed sun (cancer) protection with umbrella's and as a disabled I need a seat myself to enjoy the beach. But overpricing and squeezing people out by some "happy few" over the back of the majority should be avoided at all times. Bring some common sense to this island before the population is gonna feel the pain due to lack of spenders/tourists.

Posted by phuketgreed on May 27, 2015 13:02


Don't crow too early, ed.

Posted by Jill on May 27, 2015 15:26

Editor Comment:

Journalist squawk, Jill. Readers crow.


Good grief what is wrong with the powers that are supposed to be running the show here? Hang I hope they don't start organising committees again and then in six months time, organise another committee to check up on the first committee?

Posted by Duncan on May 28, 2015 12:17


We came one month in February / March, and we have not appreciated the fact that the chairs are missing and replaced by the only mats for the same price !! (Who benefits from the crime: not small vendors, even assisted by mafieusis). And the fact that police spent about March 15 to say that even personal cots tourists were prohibited.

We have not been asked, but my wife has already decided not to come back if there is more beach beds.

We were both 68 years old and wish no longer such a long journey to be under the sun without gross beach bed

Sorry, because I see that while some question the settlement of your governor, this one will always have the last word and the navy sky for jets and other paraseiling.

It will be difficult to estimate the number of people who will not return, and the 2016 summer visitors who have decided also disappointed not to come back too.

Attention in November it will be too late to book places in planes and spaces for guesthouses.

NB; Patong, which has already seen a number of Russian tourists no longer come because of the ruble, as the Europeans have seen prices increased due to the weak euro, Patong is therefore likely to repay because broken pots people bounded but all powerful

I obviously regret.

Posted by Anonymous on May 29, 2015 18:36


I agree the people making decisions obviously don't go to the beach.
Removing beach chairs & more importantly sun umbrellas?!
Thais even use umbrellas to walk to the local market! I've seen fair skinned tourist burnt to a crisp just during the hour it takes them to rent a motorbike and get to the beach on their first day on the island.
Jet skis?! The most irresponsible, dangerous, careless and cocky

Posted by Anonymous on May 30, 2015 12:25

Friday December 8, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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