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Tuk-tuks, resorts and tour operators need a common strategy for Phuket's prosperity

Phuket and Tuk-Tuks Need a Transport Strategy

Sunday, December 13, 2009
Phuketwan News Analysis/Opinion

IT MAY BE that in talks to come this week, a solution can be found to the present issue of tuk-tuks in Karon and Kata and their relationship with resorts and tour companies.

From the point of view of the drivers, that will involve the resorts and the tour companies building the local tuk-tuk business model into future strategies.

However, it makes more sense for the tuk-tuk business model to evolve and develop into a plan that fits with modern thinking and Phuket's future as a major international tourist destination.

In Karon and Kata at least, the leaders of the tuk-tuks recognise the need for change and have made serious efforts to improve standards of service, and even to reduce prices.

Faced with the 21st century, though, a model where jobs are created and maintained to suit the needs of one small group within a much broader network are doomed to failure.

For years now, the tuk-tuk business around the island has expanded, with an increasing number of drivers employed in the industry.

This is an extention of the village, a reflection of the days when Phuket consisted of a series of small communities. As roads came to the island, the need for connecting the villages sustained the local taxis.

People must have suggested at various times that buses would be more efficient and serve the communities better. But the tuk-tuks have survived, and prospered.

This is largely because of the monopoly they hold on travel between point A and point B across most of the island. The low-cost and efficient seung tao services in Phuket City and to many other points on the island show the potential benefits of a proper public transport system.

There is also a huge network of independent bus services, run by resorts all over the island, created out of necessity, to transport staff in the absence of an efficient public transport system.

As an alternative during the day, and especially after dark, the tuk-tuks remain virtually the only choice.

This is particularly so along the popular west coast beaches, the one-time villages that have now grown and are in the process of expanding to become a single large coastal community.

The village is a great working model for health and education services, social networking and many other issues. But does it work effectively with transport, especially if excessively high prices actually alienate the customers that Phuket needs?

A more enchanting tuk-tuk service, sweet and old-fashioned, and at old-fashioned prices, should add appeal for tourists, just as it does in Bangkok and other destinations around the country.

In Phuket, tuk-tuks are a universal turn-off. We have yet to encounter a tourist, Thai or foreign, who has a kind word to say about Phuket tuk-tuks. The Tourism Authority of Thailand records hundreds of complaints about them, year in, year out.

And in tough times, when big-brand resort chains lower prices and increase marketing around the globe, when destinations everwhere compete more intensely for business, the tuk-tuk drivers make few concessions.

Wouldn't it make more sense for the resorts, the tour operators and the local authorities to work with the tuk-tuk drivers to come up with a complete transport strategy for Phuket's future?

We believe that time has come. If alternative training and suitable jobs could be found for 150 tuk-tuk drivers each year, Phuket's long-term transport needs could be properly met, and quite soon.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Meters.. Whats so complex ??

I would argue that a open air noddy van should be a lower meter rate than a air co enclosed car.

Set the meter rate.. And everyone pays it.. If the profession under pays then less people will desire to work in it. The only reason theres so damn many of them is they make so much by enforcing their cartel. Plus a certain element joins so they can get off on the bully boy / gang mentality so many of them like to put on.

Posted by LivinLOS on December 13, 2009 09:36


Meters are a panacea. How will meters solve the problem of excessively high fares?

Answer: They won't.

How will meters reduce the core problem, the oversupply of tuk-tuks?

Answer: They won't

A strategy for public transport on the island that gradually phases out tuk-tuks and replaces them with a workable alternative is the only answer. Everything else is a work-around to prop up a failing system.

Posted by Angelfire on December 13, 2009 09:50


@Angelfire Meters provide a clear and fair system of payment, it means the price is the price for all people, at all times. It also shines a spotlight on the excessive overcharging as it becomes visible how ridiculous a 300 baht ride for 1km around Patong really is.

And if the pay is lower, then the job is less appealing, and we wont have this again ridiculous oversupply which in turn means they (claim) they need to increase prices because of lack of work.

The very idea that they argue they need higher prices, because theres not enough work to support them all, shows they have no grasp or desire to grasp the supply / demand dynamic.

Posted by LivinLOS on December 13, 2009 12:21


Please, stop beating around the bush ! The only honest answer to this problem is a bus service .

Posted by elizabeth on December 13, 2009 13:04


.......... and a couple of steam rollers to flatten the tuk tuks!!

Posted by Mister Ree on December 13, 2009 13:40


A large part of the over-supply of Tuk-tuks in Kata and Karon is due to the local transport monopoly allowing large numbers of unlicensed (and therefore uninsured) private cars and vans to offer taxi services on the extensive lengths of the public highway that they control. On many of the stands, the unlicensed (white registration plate) cars outnumber the licensed 'yellow plate' tuk-tuks.

The fact that these vehicles can openly offer taxi services with impunity from enforcement is an indication of the power of the Kata & Karon monopoly and the complicity of the enforcement authorities in the supporting the monopoly.
Meters will only be effective if someone is willing to set sensible rates and enforce their use. Not much chance of that happening!

Posted by Nemo on December 13, 2009 13:56


Tuk-Tuk drivers have no right at all to complain about other public service stransports either from private sector or phuket province administrations (OrBorJor & OrborTor)
All limousines, taxi, minibus and buses are driven by Thai people which is perfectly legal and it does not matter if they are not native from Phuket.
All Thais are legally in their right to work as drivers for large Thai companies which pay full government taxes and in no way is a job by the Thai law for those lazy, rude and bad mannered local people who want to go back to the middle-ages.
Those local people are the same families who make problems on all Phuket beaches with tour boats willing to pick-up customers directly on the beaches opposite the customer's hotels.
To Phuket Governor, my request is: please send ASAP the case to justice court to get an official position and deal according with the rule. That's it.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on December 13, 2009 14:02


The tuk tuks and the locals are the law in Kata and Karon beach . i have seen this for so many years now. .Until there is law nothing will be done with the tuk tuk cartel.

Posted by peter j Notley on December 13, 2009 15:31


Some local thais feel like the tourist industry owe them a nice, lazy living, after the big cash was burned fast as they sold their family heritage (land) long ago to some clever Sino-Thais from Bangkok. So this village people and their leaders, the long-enough-here-to-feel-native people invented this goose with the golden eggs.

As it is normal for monopolies, excess is created. Too many, too high prices, no natural regulatories, like free floating of demand and supply, like innovation etc. And now they are strangling the goose and everyone "dislikes" them.

Change will come. It will cost jobs and will make people angry. The mobsters should be warned, that this thing is over. Or has Phuket always to wait until Bangkok kick your ass?

And then: Start go innovativ! Make the tuk tuks a real cool tourist attraction! First get them electric. Get them disney style but a real nostalgic feeling. Make them fun cars to drive with entertaining hosts as drivers. Why not let them be a tourist info guy, who also offer, when asked, good advice, wheres a nice shooting range, waterpark, gem shop, etc. Some tourist actually like that infos. Change! Grow up! GO FUTURE!

Then they will have a future alongside with busses and metered taxis. But of course, excess monthly take homes will be the past. You strangled the goose enough. Now is time to work for the money. Like everyone else does. Do not ask, what the tourists have to do for you, ask what you can do for them. That is the better idea in the long run. Vietnam, Cambodia et all. aint that stupid.

Posted by Lena on December 13, 2009 18:41


Lean times require that Thailand no longer tolerate the Tuktuk cartel, which unnecessarily drives up the cost of a vacation.

Let there be a bus route, 2 hours a day, between Kata and Patong.

If the Tuktuk drivers complain that their daily wages have dropped from 3000 a day to 30 a day, then reduce their staff by 90%.

And most of all, don't let their whining prevent businesses from employing their own shuttle drivers.

Posted by TaxiDriver on December 13, 2009 20:31


Only sober competition!!!!

Posted by Darek on December 14, 2009 03:30


Lots of feeling showing here and cannot understand why the tuk tuk drivers never get the message!

So tell me, who is using the tuk tuks?

Posted by Anonymous on December 16, 2009 07:36


Never used a tuktuk, been there six times in seven years. Ok perhaps 5-6 times, but only as it has been a must. They had so ripoff fares at the first time, so I take a walk for now, if i have to go a further place, i have my own connections to make it.

Boycott tuktuks so you their prices will go to the right.

Posted by kjekjefi on December 22, 2009 05:43

Wednesday March 29, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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