A YOUNG Chinese woman has drowned off Phuket on a snorkelling day trip on the eve of the Ambassador's visit to Phuket.
PHUKET: China's tourism officials have been obsessed with four words this week: ''Ding Jinhao was here.'' The sentence was scrawled on an ancient temple wall in Luxor, Egypt.
Thousands of irate Chinese have been roused, along with the unhappy ghosts of Amenhotep III and Rameses II, by the 15-year-old Chinese tourist's vandalism.
Tourism in Egypt and on Phuket, as everywhere, is a two-way treat. The Deal is that tourists come to Phuket and are treated well. In return, the tourists undertake to treat Phuket well.
No environmental vandalism, no ripping pieces of coral from pristine reefs. No rip-offs by jet-ski scammers, no tourists slammed into the side of speedboats. Deal?
Negotiating from both sides is part of what once happened on Phuket every three months when the Governor met Phuket's honorary consuls.
Since September last year, when the consuls last met with the present governor's predecessor, The Deal has become less clear.
Tomorrow, the New Deal era begins, with the arrival on Phuket of Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu for talks with senior Phuket officials.
Rip-offs, unexpected Phuket International Airport arrival ''taxes,'' safety and security, the service from tour guides . . .
. . . all these items and more are expected to be raised and discussed over two-and-a-half hours at the Phuket Gracelands Resort and Spa.
The New Deal is different to the old deal because the Chinese Ambassador probably wields more influence over Phuket's tourism future than any other individual.
If he doesn't think Phuket is doing its best to solve issues related to tourism and the protection of China's citizens, they will go elsewhere. It can be arranged.
Unfortunately the present Phuket Governor, Maitree Intrusud, is overseas right now and cannot greet the ambassador.
But he will be back in time to pay a courtesy call on the ambassadors of the European Union who have been invited to attend a seminar on Phuket on June 14-15.
An EU spokesperson said today that the following countries will be represented: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and Great Britain.
EU Ambassador David Lipman will be there too, as host.
As part of the New Deal, Phuket's honorary consuls and tour operators will be briefing the European ambassadors in much the same way that Phuket officials will be briefing China's Ambassador tomorrow.
What Phuket's tourism leaders will be anxious to make clear is that Phuket needs tourists from a wide range of countries to hedge its bets against economic disturbances or natural disasters.
Although the weight of numbers for now makes China much more important than it once was, Phuket's long-term future relies on diversity, on encouraging visitors from all over.
And as for those pesky tourists . . . no scrawling ''Foo was here'' on the Heroines Monument. Deal?