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The way it was once on Kata beach, when Phuket was less popular

Beach Workers Want Sunbeds Back

Thursday, August 13, 2015
PHUKET: Beach workers still want sunbeds back on Phuket's beaches and are planning to agitate this weekend for their return as soon as possible.

The move comes as more time is being sought by university researchers who have been asked to produce all the solutions to Phuket's beach problems by August 20 - next Thursday.

''We need more time,'' Dr Pan Thongchumnum of Prince of Songkhla University told Phuketwan yesterday. ''New points are being made as we talk to stakeholders.''

However, European tourists usually decide where to go for November-January holidays about now - so some will be looking at other destinations apart from Phuket unless the vexed beach chair issue is resolved quickly.

But Dr Pan told Phuketwan: ''We can't produce a result by August 20 because we need more basic information from key stakeholders.''

The university is doing the research voluntarily without any initial expertise on beach management.

A new complication is posed by a meeting of about 50 beach workers at the weekend - coincidentally to be held at Prince of Songkhla University.

''We believe the sunbeds need to be returned to Phuket's beaches as soon as possible,'' Palat Jantarasopin, the head of Phuket's Tourism Services Operators Club, told Phuketwan.

A decision on the way forward for Phuket's prime tourist attractions, its splendid west coast beaches, has been a long time coming since the military took charge in Thailand and ordered all commerce cleared from misused public space along the sands and foreshores.

Strangest of the decisions made since then has been a total ban on sunbeds and beach chairs, which means that veteran European visitors who have been coming to Phuket for decades have been forced to make do with mats at sand level.

The Europeans have also been banned from bringing their own sunbeds, beach chairs and umbrellas - with Governor Nisit Jansomwong declaring that only 10 percent of each beach can be used for umbrellas, mats and commercial activities.

This is a dramatic change from the days when umbrellas and sunbeds - in some cases, thousands of them - covered virtually all of Phuket's prime beach space.

The ''10 percent'' zoning project may work at some beaches with just a few swimmers and sunlovers but at popular spots including Patong, Kamala, Surin, Karon and Kata, 10 percent of each beach is likely to quickly prove to be not enough.

The beach causing most alarm is Patong, once popular with swimmers, where a ''zebra stripe'' zoning that extends into the water means that scores of jet-ski operators now run their businesses just where they want to - right among potential customers.

The Mayor of Patong, Chalermlak Kebsub, says it's impossible for local municipal staff to control the activities of the beach vendors or the jet-ski operators and the governor's commercial zoning idea to help the '' Patong poor'' was wrong because there are no poor beach vendors in Patong.

The original concept of the beaches being kept clear so their natural beauty could be seen would have worked if tourists had been allowed to bring their own equipment and use it anywhere they like.

Instead, regimented ranks are required - but of mats and umbrellas only. European visitors - not used to sitting at ground level like their Asian contemporaries - mourn the ban on sunbeds and say it's discriminatory.

Virtually all the stakeholders were given time to say whatever they wished at a succession of meetings on Phuket - with the exception of the tourists or their most obvious spokespeople, the island's honorary consuls.

The fact that every decision so far has alienated more and more of the people who have the money and who pay all of Phuket's bills does not seem to have sunk home yet.

Phuketwan understands that a small group representing the views of the beach-loving tourists was finally asked to put its perspective to Dr Pan and his research team earlier this week.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Vendors want beach beds back
Hotels want beach beds back
Tourists want beach beds back
The honorary consuls will tell you people want beach beds back

Study over - bring beach beds back and stop this foolishness.

Last year there was a 25% drop in Nordic countries coming to Phuket. One of the main reasons was the sunbed situation. The biggest travel magazine in Sweden voiced their opinion with words i cannot post here.

Posted by Ciaran on August 13, 2015 15:17

Editor Comment:

Vast numbers of Scandinavians have given up on Phuket down the years as its beauty has disappeared under sunbeds, Ciaran. So there's clearly a division among Scandis between those who love nature and the layabouts. Nothing foolish about wanting Phuket's beauty preserved . . . many Europeans also moved on to Phang Nga and Krabi. Most of the people who like the sunbeds don't represent the next generation who do understand what nature is, whether in Sweden or Thailand.


Support Ciaran's view, 70% of our resort guests from Europe would love to have beach chairs and umbrellas back, we receive an average of 20 mails a week inquiring how the beach situation will be next season.

Wolfgang Meusburger, Holiday Inn Resort Phuket

Posted by wm on August 13, 2015 16:05

Editor Comment:

The sunbeds will almost certainly be back. Where will the money go, I wonder? Into private pockets or to preserve the beaches?


No Scandinavians beach have vendors some rent out beach chairs and umbrellas, you most take whit you to the beach from your home.

Posted by Bjorn Ronningen on August 13, 2015 16:46

Editor Comment:

Well, that makes sense . . . how wise.


Nobody want the return of the private beach workers on the public beaches of Phuket because they are the source of too much harassments to buy jet-ski tours, land and sea tours as well food and alcohol in order to collect commissions... in fact they are professional touts.
One solution would be to have city employees at different places along the beaches with sunbeds and parasols for rent with official receipts, and, up to tourists to carry them to the place they like on the beach or to give a tip to local folks to carry them between the storage places and bring them back after using them to avoid to have too many of them unattended on the beaches.
In that case the local administration will get some legal incomes.

Posted by WhistleBlower on August 13, 2015 17:22


I travel to patong beach 21 times but without beach beds and umbrellas i will never go back there again

Posted by Anonymous on August 13, 2015 17:27


It's not going to help in that the all-important report is being produced by a bunch of rank amateurs. They've had plenty of time to finish this but are now requesting longer. Of course the advantage to the Governor's office is that it's being done for free.

Posted by Steve on August 13, 2015 17:38

Editor Comment:

Provided the research is rigorous, there shouldn't be problems with the university's report. Academics may be a ''bunch of rank amateurs'' to you. But they know how to go about genuine research.


The beach chair back group is very strong, I fear that they will prevail in the long view.

That's a shame, because the beaches look really much better without.

When I get out riding my little kayak and see my "home port" Kamala from far it opens my heart.

I find all this winging and whining highly embarrassing and ridiculous. How can a cheap plastic chair decide where to go on holiday?

If my holiday is only to sit on a lounger on the beach - which is totally ok - then I have to go where it is possible and not whine and complain and insist and protest against the fact that fortunately someone made a right decision.

Adapt to a new situation or to turn away that you should have learned. What is the wonderful view on the beautiful beaches against the selfish desire of some?

And with all due respect, if you're too old to sit on the ground, you have to accept that a Phuket holiday is no longer possible. When you get old you have to cope with it, unfortunately, simular with many other things.

Sounds harsh, but in the case of Phuket a solution is simple.

The vendors want the bed chairs back, of course, what else?

This reason alone should be enough to banish them.

Ciaran, can you enlighten us please, where your source comes from with the 25% drop of Scandinavians in Phuket? I do not believe that. I can read Swedish or Danish, no problem.

Even if that's true, there are so many other reasons why the number decreases.

Also, I am convinced that many tourists now come to Phuket because this eyesore is banned. Not underestimate this fact.

Posted by Georg The Viking on August 13, 2015 18:20


Fully agree with cm and ciaran, if we want prosperity and tourists who spend (european not the mass of chinese who spend the minimum on the island) we need without any discussion sunbeds, for the ones who not want them they can visit the beaches in the north of the island around sarasin there you have nature and no sumbeds it means there is a solution for pro and contra sumbeds adicts.

Posted by Eric on August 13, 2015 18:46

Editor Comment:

The northern beaches would be just great for sunbeds and jet-skis, too.



Halo! If you mean something like Tanoon beach,it is long time already with sunbeds and jetskis also )) May be you've been there like 20yrs ago.

Posted by Sue on August 13, 2015 20:21


I am not very sure why this group was set up to study this at all. It seems the Governor just doesn't want to make a decision.

I was recently in Portugal on the Algarve. Beautiful beaches with sunbeds on them in very structured zones. It worked well. Of course you can bring your own bed and umbrella too and their is none of this nonsense that takes place in Phuket.

But the lack of beds are damaging the industry and Phuket. Yes we want beautiful beaches but their needs to be balance.

Posted by Ciaran on August 13, 2015 20:35


"it's impossible for local municipal staff to control the activities of the beach vendors or the jet-ski operators"

Why is that so - auction out a suitable amount of chair licenses, screw a licence plate on every rental beach chair and make a total ban on jet-skis.

That's what the majority want, and determinant for Phukets's future. No need for some academics to consider this issue for years.

If the authorities can't control the town, then perhaps it is time for new people in charge.

Posted by Sherlock on August 13, 2015 23:36

Editor Comment:

As you know, Sherlock, the local municipal councils are elected. That makes them politicians. They will help their voters at every opportunity.


"However, European tourists usually decide where to go for November-January holidays about now."
For the peak mid December to mid January period covering school holidays and Xmas/New Year most Europeans will have already booked and judging by information from hotel friends in both Khao Lak and Phuket it seems that with bookings at this moment being down there on last year it is to destinations other than at least these two in Thailand. I hoped that my "doomsayer" forecast that this would happen would be proved wrong by the return to nature policy and I still hope that it will. Albeit being a firm supporter of the controlled placement of beach loungers and umbrellas I do not support a willy nilly return to the previous mackerels lying basting in the sun situation.
Now that world wide travel is available more cheaply and more destinations becoming accessible once holiday makers desert their previous favourite in favour of one that gives them the facilities, such as sun loungers, they want, it is very difficult to tempt them back.
We did not have the problems in Khao Lak, our Winter get away for the High Season, that Phuket in general and Patong and other popular resort areas in particular, experienced due to the forcible removal of illegal restaurants and the curtailment of the illegal beach businesses, including lounger/umbrella hire. Firstly those problems did not exist along the Khao Lak coastline to the same extent and secondly although beach restaurants with loungers that were on public beach were removed in the last Low Season, most were able to relocate back from the public beach under the tree line on private or controlled land complete with loungers for those "veterans" like my wife and myself and probably 50% of the long stay visitors to Khao Lak. However, Phuket and very definitely Patong does not have that ability with urban/resort areas being built right up to the public beach front.
Having said that we have just returned from a Mediterranean cruise and called in at destinations with some of the most beautiful and famous in the World (Cannes and St.Tropez)in 5 different countries (Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, France and Spain)where all beaches were harmoniously shared by tourists with a mixture of loungers/umbrella areas and towel/mat/umbrella areas, clearly defined and well operated. There were also Jet Ski and para sail areas but well away from the bathing/swimming areas. Why the Phuket Authorities had to invent an illogical and unintelligible model like the current one when there are successful ones all over the world to study and adapt to Thailand's particular characteristics beats me.

Posted by Alan on August 14, 2015 00:52

Editor Comment:

The wheel has been reinvented, but this one is not round.


Ah, the beach chair conundrum, Exacerbated by us silly humans after all,
As is our wont
It will ever be thus - so far

Posted by farang888 on August 14, 2015 02:43


I really don't understand the hassle. Just ask the jet-ski operators what they want and get on with it because that is what is going to happen anyway. And why are we just concerned with saving the beautiful beaches and do nothing about the towns? Patong should be returned to nature as it was 40 years ago. I'm sure the tourists have ruined it. All those Western fast food joints and bars. We should be aiming to clean up the whole island. Let the tourists go wherever, just don't let them disturb the natural beauty of this island. I remember how Kata used to be, so beautiful. No electricity wires and internet cables hanging over the roads. No people, no tailor shops, no touts, no bars, just really lovely natural beauty. Who needs to make money when we are surrounded by such gorgeous natural beauty.

Posted by chill on August 14, 2015 03:26

Editor Comment:

The key is, chill, that an absolute commitment to making money means doom.


Seems to me the problem is no longer if there is sunbeds or not, it is the fact we are still arguing 18 months later. I rather enjoyed the sunbeds but after 2 visits without them found I did not miss them that much and it will not stop me returning.Settle it and move on, the argument is doing more damage than the issue.

Posted by Davemc60 on August 14, 2015 05:07


Please stop this nonsense of howling bad deal taking away the beach chairs and umbrellas that ruin the natural beauty of Phuket's beaches. Now i am able to walk without hinderance along the white sands.

Posted by seht1912 on August 14, 2015 13:56

Editor Comment:

Indeed. Just last year, enterprising expat businesses were covering the sand at Surin in stepping stones, tables, chairs, supersize beds . . . you name it. Never seen a greed rush so blatant, exceptional even by Phuket standards. .


I would settle just for a ''CLEAN BEACH''...

Posted by robert smith on August 14, 2015 20:27


I hope that the sunbeds and parasols come back, if not .. we don't come back to Patong... And I know meany people and friends.. who have a longstay.. will do the same..we are waiting to book..Bring back the sunbeds PLEASE

Posted by Christine on August 15, 2015 04:14

Editor Comment:

There appears to be some legal reason why mats are ok but sunbeds and beach chairs are banned, Christine. People who have returned to Phuket since the sunbeds disappeared say they quickly get over their addiction. Phuket is not a sunbed.


Holidays mean so many different things to different people. A Phuket holiday included. Given Phuket's economy relies heavily on tourism i think perhaps the saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it" should be applied. It seems to me the only aspect of the
beach chairs and umbrellas provided model that was broke was that it was illegally operated. The model itself - beach chairs and umbrellas provided for tourists - was not broken. So, why can't the latter be provided legally?

Posted by Itsamystery on August 15, 2015 05:14


Without sunbeds, tourist numbers will drop - period. The only way to ensure the tourist dollars come into Thailand is to cater for tourists who do not really use the beach or pubs/clubs eg The Chinese - They are happy with just going shopping and traveling in groups in Chinese run companies. Perhaps Phuket should just build more shopping centres and open the doors for Chinese run tour companies who have deals with the shops and restaurants, the money may not stay in Phuket (as most will go back to Chinese companys) but hey, who cares? As long as there are bodies coming and going, we can use the stats to justify that tourist numbers are stable and that there is nothing to worry about.

Posted by Charlies on August 19, 2015 07:13


wont come back to phuket until beach beds and umbrellas are back on the beach. been coming to phuket for 15 years.might look at cambodia next year

Posted by tony on October 27, 2015 01:19

Thursday March 23, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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