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Pollution on a famous Phuket beach: one reason for change

Tourism Changes Must Come Quickly

Friday, August 16, 2013
PHUKET: The tourism industry on Phuket needs to quickly alter its approach or lose its appeal to ''quality tourists,'' a seminar heard yesterday.

Resorts now competing on price should compete on service instead, the President of the Thai Hotels Association (Southern Division), Suchart Hirankanokkul, told a meeting.

Speaking at a tourism and technology forum in Patong organised by True Vision, Khun Suchart warned that Australian visitors were down by five percent in the second quarter.

Chinese tourists were coming in large numbers, with passengers to Phuket constantly increasing. But he said selling cheap accommodation was a mistake.

''If we sell cheap, what do we get?'' he said. ''Nothing. All we get is tourists in large numbers. Quality is what's important.''

Resorts also needed to develop an appreciation of the natural environment and work to preserve it, he said.

High-end European visitors were already abandoning Patong for Khao Lak: ''Unless we turn things around on Phuket, more will leave.''

On a recent road show trip to London, he said the message was plain from agents. One of them told him: ''Don't try to sell anything about Phuket to me.''

Several times, Khun Suchart noted, the Chinese Ambassador to Thailand had suggested that officials on Phuket should put up signage in the Chinese language - including warnings about the dangers in the water.

There was no sign yet of replacement signage, he said. ''If you let the problems continue, tourism on Phuket will. start to decline,'' he said.

The gathering at Phuket Graceland Resort and Spa noted that conventional marketing of destinations had speedily been replaced by social networks and smart telephone technology.

On a positive note, Khun Suchart said that the coming of the Asean Economic Community in 2015-16 represented a good chance for Phuket to evolve ''if we are strong enough.''

He said it was vital for Phuket resorts to stop the competition to drive prices lower, to exploit new technology effectively, and to target high-end tourists.

Khun Suchart owns the Graceland Resort and has recently constructed a second resort near Khao Lak, north of Phuket.

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This may seem somewhat ambiguous to the Editor, but being factual it bears out some hidden truths.
I'm not a doomsayer; in fact I live in hope that someday I shall be able to return to Phuket for a holiday and meet some of my long time friends again (many having already departed) when and if things improve on the island. Of all these new proposals I think it will take a rocket scientist to sort out the mess Phuket is in and the results that changes can bring; hence the need for some variants of Murphy's Law as follows:

Murphy's Original Law:
If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.
Murphy's Law:
If anything can go wrong it will.
Murphy's First Corollary:
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
Murphy's Second Corollary:
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
And last, but not least:
The Murphy Philosophy:
Smile... tomorrow will be worse. (Doomsayers don't smile).
Many people tend to think that Murphy was an Irishman, but truth be told he was a rocket scientist.
I have just finished reading a book entitled ''Murphy's Law and other reasons why things go wrong'' by Arthur Bloch, and Captain Ed Murphy really was a rocket scientist with the US Airforce and was indeed the originator of Murphy's Law. Many parallels can be drawn with the happenings and the comings and goings on Phuket today - it's a worthwhile read.

Posted by Pete on August 16, 2013 10:47

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True!
However, Khun Suchart forgot to mentioned that a big part of the problem are the uncontrolled developments of unlicensed hotels and resorts without permits, the scams, transportation, lack of systems and law enforcement is pushing Phuket in the current direction.

Posted by Mr. K on August 16, 2013 11:22

Editor Comment:

I am sure, given more time, he would have mentioned all that.

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I am just a little tired of hearing the term 'quality tourist'. It is a term used too often & too glibly.

I have been coming to Thailand for 18 years & have family here, spending most of my income in Thailand; does that qualify me as a 'quality tourist'?

Once & forever, could someone please define what they really mean by the term 'quality tourist'.

Posted by Logic on August 16, 2013 11:58

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Logic:
The people that eat Quality Street chocolates!

Posted by Pete on August 16, 2013 12:45

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Logic has a good comment. I have come to Phuket for 34 years ( no elektric anywere but Phuket town, Thalang and at the airport ), and it was a lovely place. Drinks was cheap, but today it cost more than in Europe. Why : because the landlords charge to much so the bar owners have to charge more. The landlords are some few families which you also can compare to m**** like.

Posted by Hans on August 16, 2013 13:14

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@Pete nice to see a touch of humor made me smile anyway.

Posted by Rod on August 16, 2013 17:11

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Quality tourist want quality transport not overpriced unroadworthy jallopies with kamikaze pilots, Murphys Law self starters wont waterproof seals will, did the rocket scientist hear Phuket we have a problem!

Posted by slickmelb on August 16, 2013 20:45

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evolution takes time ...... it won't happen quickly ...

Posted by chris on August 17, 2013 06:48

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From reading previous discussions about tourism in Phuket, my understanding is that a 'quality tourist' is one who spends more money per day than the average tourist, whether it be on their choice of hotel, mode of transport, restaurant that they eat in or souvenir that they buy. (Anyone please correct me if I'm wrong).

But are quality tourists a realistic idea or a pipedream for Phuket?

Would Quality Tourism really help Phuket?

Well, it would certainly help the 4 and 5-star hotels, the Mercedes Benz private chauffeur services, the upmarket restaurants and the purveyors of rare and expensive jade souvenirs.

But what about the average business owner in Phuket? Do quality tourists want to stay in 2-star guesthouses? Do they like to eat sticky rice with papaya in a little shack by the beach? Howabout using a basic but traditional Thai massage service? Or travel in a private (but legal) taxi?

Those are the types of business that the vast majority of Thais provide in Phuket. They won't see any benefit of having quality tourists in Phuket, because quality tourists will stay in their 5-star hotels and only use the 'quality' services that are recommended by that hotel. Only the lucky, few businesses will see any benefit from quality tourism.

And what about all the 'cheap and cheerful' tourists, such as the mainland Chinese who flock to the island? Are we going to shun the money that they spend?

Who wants to volunteer to inform the Chinese ambassador that Phuket no longer wants his 'average' countrymen and women?

Although it's hard to draw comparisons, think about somewhere like The Maldives. Mention that destination and the words 'quality touristm' seems quite appropriate. There has never been mass tourism to The Maldives and I cannot imagine hoards of working-class Chinese or Russians descending on those islands.

Phuket has had it's chance, as far as quality tourists are concerned, and they blew it! They promoted the island to mainstream Russians and Chinese and those are the types of tourist that flock here. A job well done TAT. They cannot put the clock back.

Rather than wistfully dreaming about times of yore, the Phuket authorities should better spend their time in making Phuket and the services that it offers more attractive to Mr and Mrs average tourist. All these Chinese tourists may not be rich as individuals, but their combined spending power is huge. Rather than offering them sub-standard services, scams and rip-offs, why not work hard to clean up the island, close down the scam businesses, arrest the corrupt police and government officers, offer free Chinese and Russian language lessons to business owners, put up signs in different languages etc etc etc. Provide a decent service or product to these types of tourist and they will spend their money.

No-one wants to spend their hard-earned money to buy 'tat' (appropriate word!).

No-one likes to be ripped off, especially when they know that they ARE being ripped off!

Phuket, Don't try to fight the animal that you created. Tame it instead.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on August 17, 2013 07:31

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I recently contracted a nasty chest / ear nose & throat infection from swimming @ patong....

Posted by rocket scientist on August 17, 2013 07:41

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''If you let the problems continue, tourism on Phuket will start to decline,'' he said"

Not will, already. I live in Rawai: here is full of tourists compared to Patong. Nobody likes polluted sea, dangerous road, crazy traffic, air pollution and greedy people. Many that before went to Patong, now hate it and move around in the island or never come again..

Posted by dave on August 17, 2013 09:55

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Thanks Simon for your thoughtful response. I think you have pretty well hit the nail on its head.

Everyone should remember what has made Phuket from a tin, rubber & fruit hub into a major tourist destination.

PEOPLE who spend their hard earned cash.

Cater for all tastes at all levels & make sure that everyone is kept safe & free from rip offs.

What happened to entertainment zoning?

Bars seem to be scattered everywhere once again. Move them to restricted locations & allow some late night revelry for those that want such.

Create clean & smut free zones for families to enjoy.

At Rocket Scientist: I also contracted a very similar bad mouth & chest infection whilst diving in the lee side of Racha Yai last week - the first time in 3 years of diving off Phuket.

Coincidence that this is where there are resorts (poor sewage control?) & many speedboats jammed with mostly Chinese tourists (based on swimming with lifejackets). I think not.

Water treatment & proper sewage control needs to be high on the agenda & that means regulated building controls.

Posted by Logic on August 17, 2013 10:32


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