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MediaWATCH: Island Where Tourists Aren't Wanted

MediaWATCH: Island Where Tourists Aren't Wanted

Saturday, August 8, 2009
SO YOU THINK that the fuss about the Patong beer mat caused a few problems for Phuket? That was nothing compared to the fiery Crete flasher.

The 26-year-old Greek woman who defended her dignity by apparently setting fire to a British tourist's private parts has also ignited a war of words.

Marina Fanouraki is on her way to becoming a modern Helen of Troy, a hero for her times. And the Crete tourism industry is giving serious thought to whether it wants British tourists.

The British media is diving in, no holds barred. ''Locals are increasingly angered and exasperated - not least at the sight of couples copulating in public,'' says the Independent .

And the fuss has spread beyond the Electra bar on the holiday island of Crete. The mayor at another Greek island destination says: ''They roll off the plane drunk and then proceed to drink from morning to night.

''They don't seem to want to enjoy our island, our culture, our hospitality. All they want to do is create trouble.''

This year, mayors, police and tourism officials have openly blamed tour operators for the cycle of violence and even death that have come to be associated with the debauchery, the Independent says.

''The operators have threatened us quite openly, saying, 'If you don't like this, if you don't want to put up with it, we'll pull out,' said the mayor, whose own town, Laganas, looks more like a set from Bladerunner than a quaint fishing village at night.

Even worse, he said, some of Britain's biggest travel companies were not only ''blackmailing'' the local tourist industry but encouraging the wild inebriation of their clientele.

''This year we have stood our ground. We have told the operators straight, that we are not interested in such tourism,'' he said.

''What is going on is unacceptable. Often tour company reps will encourage youngsters to drink as many drinks as they can on pub crawls because they are working to commission.''

Drugs are considered to be a constant problem. The fact that 237 Britons were arrested on the Greek resort islands of Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos last year helps to entrench their reputation as the worst behaved tourists in the world.

As for British tourist 23-year-old Stuart Feltham, accused of groping Miss Fanouraki, exposing himself and demanding sex, he denies the allegations.

Phuket should heave a collective sigh of relief. Sometimes, being a long-haul destination is a real blessing in disguise.

A lengthy Associated Press report on the alleged Suvarnabhumi airport duty free scam has now carried the allegation to corners of the world that the BBC coverage did not reach.

The Straits Times in Singapore (a very different tourist island) reports today that an alleged extortion scam targeting foreign travellers shopping at duty-free shops in Bangkok's international airport has ''turned up the heat'' on the Thai authorities. (Are genitals on fire yet, we wonder?)

''While there have not been reports of Singaporeans falling victim to the airport scam, at least one frequent traveller has now decided to stay away.

''This is frightening,'' said Ms Irene Chua, who is in her 60s and has been to Thailand about seven times.

''I am the kind of traveller who does not leave the airport without buying . . . I was planning to go (to Thailand) in December . . . but I am not going now.''

Bangkok is a favorite destination for Singaporeans. Nearly 800,000 visited Thailand in 2007, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand data.

One Straits Times reader comments: ''It is so easy for a country to go from economic growth and prosperity to disorder. Right, they should have freedom of assembly to demonstrate and riot and kill and destroy property and the economy (remember the red and yellow shirts?).

''Things will go from bad to worse if no politician cares enough about his country except his own personal gain.''

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