PHUKET: Michelle Smith's brutal, tragic murder this week has put the attempts by Phuket's expat marketing community to rebrand Phuket in perspective.
Phuketwan's view is that ''branding'' and promoting Phuket without first fixing Phuket's problems is like selling a car with three wheels. That may be an inappropriate metaphor for Thailand, where some vehicles do indeed run reasonably well on three wheels.
Nevertheless, the point remains valid. Fix Phuket's problems first, please, then sell a perfect Phuket to the world. There is no doubt that Phuket still has many attractions and wide appeal.
But bad marketing ideas have proven to be a problem in the past. The suggestion of ''rebranding'' Phuket's monsoon/green/wet season as Summer may have seemed like a stroke of genius at the time.
Right now, with eight deaths from drownings involving tourists on and around Phuket in the space of a month and a day, calling the deadly monsoon season ''Summer'' seems a less than bright idea.
The desire of vested interests to project Phuket as a year-round beach destination has overwhelmed commonsense. With six deaths on Phuket's beaches and two more in a whitewater rafting capsize just off the island in less than five weeks, can Phuket really call itself a year-round beach destination?
We don't think so. To entice people to come to Phuket for a beach holiday between May and October seems to us to be a dangerous exercise in deceit.
There are certainly some considerations for which tourists must take individual responsibility. At the same time, it is beholden on Phuket's tourism authorities and Phuket resort managements to be frank and factual about the dangers.
Phuket's marketing community plays a vital part in making Phuket a success as a tourist destination. But Phuketwan believes the interests of everyone on Phuket would be better served if they took a more realistic approach from now on.
Put that fourth wheel back on. Tune the engine. Then market Phuket with greater ease, knowing that Phuket is a quality product.
How can Phuket's marketing community help? By persuading local officials that ''Truth in Advertising'' is what works in the 21st century, when bad news travels faster than ever before.
Work out campaigns to entice people to Phuket in the monsoon/wet/green season, but don't tell any lies. Let them know it can be a dangerous place to swim at the beach sometimes, but that there are plenty of swimming pools and lots of other activities.
Come down from the Ivory Tower Resort. Don't pretend Phuket doesn't have crime, but do your marketing best to help apply tried and true techniques to help Phuket's police keep the kids out of trouble.
Recognise that Phuket's environment is endangered. Come up with a campaign that the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation can use to develp a successful Reduce, Reuse Recycle project, extending to every corner of Phuket.
Lop Phuket's mountain of garbage down to a small, shapely hill.
Save the beaches from privatisation. Come up with a marketing campaign for a single Phuket Beach Authority.
Develop a plan for letting Thai residents know more about what they and their beloved Phuket need for a proper balance between revenue and quality of life.
Work out how to persuade motorcyclists to give up their vehicles in favor of public transport. (It will seem like a good idea sooner than you think.)
When the fourth wheel is firmly back on the Phuket wagon, you can all sell it to the world, without any qualms about the quality of the product. Fix that Phuket wheel for good, and we'll even help pump up the tyres and get the motor purring.