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Phuket has nothing to fear . . . except misplaced fear

Phuket's Bid For a Better Future Starts Monday

Saturday, May 22, 2010
News Analysis

MONDAY'S second summit involving the Governor of Phuket and honorary consuls from about 16 countries could not come at a more significant time. The next six months are likely to be the most critical in Phuket's modern history.

Come November, Phuket could burst into the next high season as a much improved holiday destination, with a proper public transport system and metered tuk-tuks and taxis. Or it could slump and become an undesirable also-ran, overpriced and underwhelming.

Through no fault of its own, Phuket in May has become a victim of false and damaging travel alerts and an international media coverage that has mostly failed to tell the whole story.

While violence has ripped Bangkok and some northern provinces, Phuket and its neighboring Andaman provinces have remained at peace, the same pleasant destinations for tourists that they always have been.

After the 2004 tsunami, the BBC and CNN wrongly reported that Phuket had been ''devastated,'' which was a long way from the truth. Those false reports delayed Phuket's recovery.

This time, the media's sin is one of omission. While the Bangkok violence has been covered with accuracy, viewers around the world have been left with the impression that all of Thailand is in turmoil. That just isn't so, and this reporter's view is that it's not likely to become so.

But the greatest damage of all to the tourism industry on Phuket has been caused by the national travel alerts. They are mostly imprecise and inaccurate, and therefore irresponsible. Only one country, Taiwan, got it right: while levels of danger vary in Thailand, the Taiwan alert said, Phuket remains safe.

Look at it this way: if you believe the travel alerts, then the citizens of Taiwan are in no danger on Phuket while Australians, Britons and Americans are very much at risk. That's obvious nonsense, and it only goes to show that individual national travel alerts are generally worthless, and simply cannot be relied upon.

Unfortunately in the case of Phuket, the damage has already been done, and unless there is major reform to introduce a reliable global travel warning system for all, more damage will be done again and again, if not in Thailand then in other parts of the world.

Being a diplomatic gathering, the part played by Australia, Britain, the US and other ''friendly'' countries in damaging Phuket's tourism industry needlessly is unlikely to be mentioned at Monday's meeting.

It's worth remembering, though, that over the next six months, because Phuket will be suffering an induced economic downturn, there will be a social consequence. Crimes and rip-offs are likely to become more prevalent.

Over the next few months, when the citizens of foreign countries become victims, as they surely must, the local authorities will be entirely within their rights to say to anxious embassy officials: ''Hey, if it wasn't for the lies you told back in May in your travel alerts, Phuket would not have this problem. Your citizen should have been safe.''

False travel alerts do more harm than good. And ultimately, they even endanger the people that they are designed to protect.

That said, Monday's meeting has the potential to lay the groundwork for a better Phuket. The next six months will put an end forever to the belief that there is a constant supply of people around the world who are content to come to Phuket, to pay inflated prices, to be ripped off, and to return a second time to let it happen all over again.

The same opportunity arose after the 2004 tsunami, when some of Phuket's negative and undesirable aspects should have been addressed. They were not.

And this time, there is no generous world waiting, anxious to help Phuket recover.

Monday's meeting will provide the first indication of whether Phuket is capable of turning this new man-made disaster into a positive. Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob only has a few months left in his term before retirement. Those months will be a testing time for him, and for the entire island.
Phuket Tuk-Tuks High on the Governor's Agenda
Latest The provision of an inexpensive public transport on Phuket remains a high priority within the tourism industry and among local honorary consuls. The wheels are turning.
Phuket Tuk-Tuks High on the Governor's Agenda

Phuket Tuk-Tuks Versus Light Rail, Pink Buses
UPDATE The process of improving Phuket's public transport has begun with a meeting about light rail and pink buses. Tuk tuk and taxi drivers aim to improve services to compete.
Phuket Tuk-Tuks Versus Light Rail, Pink Buses

Phuket Governor Staying On To Meter Tuk-Tuks
Breaking News Phuket's governor has won an extension in that role and nominated meters for tuk tuks as one of his priorities between now and September.
Phuket Governor Staying On To Meter Tuk-Tuks

Tuk-Tuk Corruption Must Stop, Says Patong Mayor
Latest Jet ski transporters will soon be banned from Patong beach, the Mayor of Patong says. He also admitted that police and local authorities take bribes from tuk tuk and taxi drivers.
Tuk-Tuk Corruption Must Stop, Says Patong Mayor

Will This Photo Give Phuket Real Public Transport?
Defining Moment The fare was 150 baht for a one minute trip. The tourist objected. The tuk tuk driver would not take 100 baht. He lashed out. But the outcome may be positive: the start of Phuket reform.
Will This Photo Give Phuket Real Public Transport?


Comments have been disabled for this article.


So foreign governments will be responsible for future rip offs/muggings/break ins? What utter claptrap. This island has been happily ripping people off long before the red shirt problem. To deflect the blame for illegitimate behavior onto tourists for coming here is pathetic. Shame on you.

Editor: Your wild interpretation of what I actually wrote probably qualifies you to write travel alerts.

Posted by windsofchange. on May 22, 2010 16:20


windsofchange, I have to agree with you here. It was not national politics that has killed Phuket, it was the home grown greed and m...s that has killed the once beautiful holiday destination.

Stop blaming other people and events. They did it all by themselves.

Posted by Dun on May 22, 2010 17:41


Lets hope they can do something quickly to save phuket, I don't like to sound pessimistic, but nothing in Phuket is ever done fast enough, it takes years.

All the promises of change are mostly talk, never action... I for one have faith in the governor but the m**** won't allow him to make it happen.....

Posted by J D on May 23, 2010 02:50


Agree, the author is foisting future crime off on foreign travel advisories;
" ...the local authorities will be entirely within their rights to say to anxious embassy officials: 'Hey, if it wasn't for the lies you told back in May in your travel alerts, Phuket would not have this problem. Your citizen should have been safe...'''

I went to this site's, " About Us " page and could find no information about who owns or operates this site.

May I ask , does the owner and/or editorial staff have vested interests in Phuket, such as hotel, condo or home rental, perhaps a restaurant or bar or other ventures that rely on tourism?

Editor: Travel alerts have social consequences. Inaccurate travel alerts have unnecessary social consequences. Your interpretation of the article remains your interpretation. It's not what the article says.
Phuketwan and its staff have no vested interest in any aspect of Phuket tourism. A small shareholding in the Phuket Post came in return for work done when that publication began several years ago. We have no say in Post editorial policy.

Posted by Christy S on May 23, 2010 09:23


DUN.. You are so right...this is the problem with phuket the M****.... not any excuses the editor wants to make. Unless they clean this up, Phuket will always have these problems.

Posted by barka on May 23, 2010 09:58


Alan: The purpose of Travel alerts are to provide warnings and not safety assurances.
Whilst you might think current warnings advising against travel to Thailand discriminate unfairly against Phuket, such recommendations are likely to err on the side of caution and justifiably so with civil unrest and sporadic violence breaking out beyond Bangkok and the Thai authorities declaring a state of emergency in 24 provinces. It was only 18 months ago that political protesters closed off Phuket airport so the potential for further problems remain.
Your criticisms of travel alerts are unfair and irresponsible as do they do provide valuable information. Read the Australian Government's Travel alert. It provides an accurate account of the situation in Thailand. Phuket is not omitted and the warnings about Phuket are embarrassingly accurate: harassment and threats of violence from jet-ski operators, credit card and ATM fraud, jewellery scams, bogus time-share schemes, undesirable safety standards of tour operators, and motor cycle and road accidents.
It is a bit of a stretch for you to blame Phuket's economic woes and future crime on national travel alerts, but at least, you acknowledge that Phuket has some internal problems to deal with.
Australia's warning has now been amended from ''do not travel'' to ''reconsider your plans to travel'' and I suspect other countries will follow.

Editor: Other countries might well follow . . . like sheep. What is the point in a system where one country follows another? The present travel alerts are totally irresponsible. What the world needs is an accurate and complete travel warning system that applies to ALL travellers and is updated rapidly, so it can be trusted. The mish-mash of nation-by-nation alerts not only creates unnecessary hardships, it also exposes future travellers to unnecessary risks, as I've illustrated. It's time for a global travel alert system that works. The various national warnings are ineffective and outmoded. It's the 21st century. The world's embassies need to sacrifice a little power for the benefit of everyone.

Posted by Peter on May 23, 2010 10:59


The author himself foresees increase in crime against foreigners but at the same time blames the travel advisories for being unfounded, wrong and outright lies ?

This is a typical Thai reaction to anything negative happening here. Blame the foreigners for reporting the facts.

In case of an emergency the Embassies are responsible for arranging evacuation of their citizens. Thus it is not only understandable but also their duty to try to deter their citizens from travelling into potential danger zones.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and Phuketwan is a valuable source of news I enjoy reading.

This time out I have to say however that the editor of this article landed an all time low on Phuketwan.

Editor: All your assumptions are as wide of the mark as the travel alerts.

Posted by Amazing Thailand on May 23, 2010 11:28


Mr editor you are a stuborn old british reporter who always thinks he is right...ALAN all these comments cant be all wrong

Editor: Oh really? Majority rules?
Not who is right?

Everything you say here is factually incorrect. Guesswork . . . just like the travel alerts.

Posted by barka on May 23, 2010 12:12


To the Editor:

I was not assuming anything, I just referred to your own words. Everyone can read them, perhaps you should too.

You have the right to your opinion just like everyone else has but for you to engage in an argument with readers is regrettable.

Clearly the readers do not agree with you and if you are either unable or unwilling to present valid counterarguments instead of just dismissing everyone not in agreement with you, I would recommend not to respond at all.

You are not only dragging down your own reputation but the reputation of Phuketwan too. Show some professionalism and respond accordingly.

Editor: There you go, making more assumptions. The worst of your comments is this one:

''This is a typical Thai reaction to anything negative happening here. Blame the foreigners for reporting the facts.''

What bigoted nonsense.

In this case, Thailand's problems are being exacerbated by misstatements by foreign governments that only obscure the actual situation and add confusion and unnecessary economic hardship, putting everyone at greater risk in future.

The travel alert system needs to be comprehensively reformed to prevent unnecessary suffering and to give all travellers accurate warnings - at the same time, not one after another. To have one country reporting Phuket as safe while others say it's dangerous demonstrates the comprehensive failure of the current system. The world needs a warning system that works - for everyone.

There has been a lot of huffing and puffing by you and by others, but no logical case has been made for retaining the present flawed system.

Posted by Amazing Thailand on May 23, 2010 13:07


Ok. First I read the comments, then I read the text. And tried to read it in your favor. But sorry, could not.

Not the travel alerts hurt Phuket, but a five-year lasting ever escalating power struggle between red and yellow, between Thaksin and friends again their foes. That is for sure. And the graveyard silence you have right now could well be the eye of the storm.

As for your facts: "It's worth remembering, though, that over the next six months, because Phuket will be suffering an induced economic downturn, there will be a social consequence. Crimes and rip-offs are likely to become more prevalent."

This economic downturn will come, but thanks to the pictures from Bangkok. The travel alerts are the ice on the cake. Even when there would be positive travel alerts, like "Go to Phuket, Thailand is safe." people would not show up a lot. Better safe then sorry - and that is, also, thanks to PAD airport block, that is NOT FORGOTTEN, or better now we all remember.

Even the shambles Phuket created itself, with the beating up of english teachers, the shootings, the accidents, the rip offs, last but not least the Tsunami are sources of perceived danger. Phuket is getting an image of a dangerous place to be - fed from a lot of different sources. Thanks to the repetition all year, it is likely to become manifest.

Even so it is not, when you behave reasonable, like letting yourself being ripped off or if you do not engage in public traffic or do not go swim on the beach, when you are not a lifeguard yourself...

But your song, dear Editor, is lately only TRAVEL ALERT. That is wrong. It is the sum of all mentioned. It is like a jigsaw and it says: "Phuket is a place not to holiday". Laying the blame on foreign governments for them using an outdated travel alert system is just wrong and it looks like poor judgement.

Editor: I am looking to the next six months. You, like all the readers who have commented so far, seem locked in the past.

The travel alerts will cause added unnecessary pain and suffering because they are inaccurate - and some of the citizens they are supposed to protect will suffer.

I am not saying (and I have never said) that travel alerts are the cause of Phuket's malaise, only that they add an unnecessary degree of pain and suffering for all. They are next to useless and need to be updated for the 21st century.

Phuket tourism bounced back strongly after the 2004 tsunami and dipped again for a variety of global panics, the 2008 airport invasions, the red shirt Asean Pattaya invasion of April last year, and the recent political confrontation in Bangkok. There was no downturn consistently attributable to Thai politics over five years.

Travel alerts need to be reformed, and they cause unnecessary damage.

If the Thai government is worried enough to issue emergency decrees, then that's a fairly accurate guide to danger. One third of the country was affected - not the whole of Thailand.

If you have a single fact to present to support the current travel warning system, please tell me all about it. Not one reader has presented a single argument in favor of the system as it now stands. Until someone does, I have better things to do.

Posted by Lena on May 23, 2010 18:58


The countries that issued travel alerts for the whole of Thailand were acting responsibly.

The downturn in visitors will have as much to do with people watching the Government's actions in Bangkok (i.e. indiscriminate firing of live rounds at protesters) than anything else. No amount of 'smiles' and cheap accommodation offers is going to wipe the memory of those events.

Posted by Phil on May 23, 2010 22:28


Thank you for your answer. But when I read it, I am not sure you answered to my comment or not. But to close the issue, I would suggest, to check the number of Taiwan tourist arrivals in Phuket and compare with number of arrivals from stupid travel alert countries. There should be a significant spike in Taiwanese no. to make your point. If not, then my point seem to be valid.

Editor: It's not about numbers. It's about right and wrong. It's about a system for everyone that actually works, rather than one where 40 nations each do their own thing, often with different advice for different nationalities. That's the foolishness of it. Travel alerts, by the way, were responsible for all the tour cancellations, not the television images. One a travel alert goes in place in an individual country, then tour groups cannot get insurance. The comparison should be with the volcano ash eruption. If the airline industry allowed 40 countries to make independent assessments, what would have happened? Chaos. What happens when 40 countries are allowed to issue independent travel alerts? Chaos. And unnecessary pain and suffering. You have yet to offer one supporting argument for the current system.

Posted by Lena on May 23, 2010 23:05


Hi - I can agree with the Editor in that the Travel Alerts do not help in increasing tourism numbers but I do think there are other factors that need to be taken into account. Just flicking through some of Phuketwan's stories of the last few months should be enough to put most people off travelling to Phuket - your articles are littered with shootings, poisonings, drownings, stabbings, burglaries, thefts and tourist rip-offs by taxi, tuk-tuk or jet-ski to name but a few of the more unpleasant things that you report happening in Phuket.
Anyone unfamiliar with Phuket would question why they would want to risk coming to such a small island where so much crime is taking place let alone the wider Thailand picture of impending civil war that the countries issuing the Travel Alerts are warning of.
I know you will respond saying "we're just reporting events" so I will place my counter argument now: "hello Mr Pot, meet Mr Kettle"!

Editor: Crimes happen everywhere around the world and the crimes on Phuket are unexceptional. We report what happens, as we should, just as journalists do everywhere. Would you prefer it if we told lies? We are suggesting the same honesty needs to be applied to travel alerts. At present, 40 nations make independent assessments, issuing warnings needlessly, making Phuket out to be more dangerous than it really is. That's dishonest. Of course there are other factors - but the travel alerts are hypocrisy and need to be improved to an international standard, in the same way that many other aspects of Phuket life need to be improved. I am surprised that so many readers prefer to encourage needless fear and uncertainty, and don't see any virtue in honesty. It seems they can't tell right from wrong. As for ''impending civil war'' . . . you clearly believe the travel alerts. Paranoia seems to be another thing that travel alerts spread, along with fear and needless suffering.

Posted by Phil. on May 24, 2010 03:30


"If you have a single fact to present to support the current travel warning system, please tell me all about it. Not one reader has presented a single argument in favor of the system as it now stands. Until someone does, I have better things to do.''

Citizens of developed nations prefer it this way, on balance. If you think this is not a fact, then take a survey for all to see. Citizens want and expect their sovereign governments to advise them on matters of foreign travel safety. We all know that our various governments get some things right and some things wrong, including travel advisories (is Greece and its islands any different?). It should, however, come as no surprise that governments will err on the side of its citizens' safety (the most basic/primary responsibility of any government), versus a short-term tourism-revenue benefit to a foreign country. It is also a historic and present-day fact that foreigners from some countries are treated differently from foreigners from other countries. Would Israeli citizens, for example, be comfortable with a one-size-fits-all UN-style travel advisory? Travel advisories from a world body that you envision would certainly be absurdly politicized and the product of back room deals. Kinda like the UN, I guess.

I appreciate your passionate promotion of an ideal concept, but you speak nothing of the road map to get there. You've been advocating this for years, so how about some concrete ideas on how to get there?

Editor: Thanks for your response. I think it's a matter of the international community recognising the defects in the current system. While some will want to hang on to the power this gives them over their citizens, others will realise that in the 21st century, it's time for change. The vast majority of travellers everywhere would benefit from a universal system that worked for everyone. Israelis and Palestinians are not suddenly going to wander off into unsafe territory. Some nations send emails and text message alerts to registered citizens in dangerous situations. That should continue. But to blacklist whole countries needlessly is hardly an appropriate response in the modern world. If every nation decided whether its planes should fly through the volcanic ash, just imagine the chaotic result. The same principle of one system for all should apply to travel alerts. Otherwise, more unnecessary hardship and unwelcome social consequences will continue to be the unhappy outcome of overprotective individual approaches. It's a win-win.

Posted by Len on May 24, 2010 07:35


So after all the comments.Who do you suggest be responsible for these Travel Alerts?....YOU.... or..A Governing body of the media reporters who have covered the Protests in Thaland ....OMG

Editor: JD, why the constant cynicism? Is it because you've never known a happy moment? Do you prefer dark clouds to sunshine? Europe manages to have a body that decides when aircraft should stay on the ground. Is it really too difficult for you to imagine a world body that could provide everyone with the same information at the same time, over the Internet? It's a question of right and wrong, of a better way, not whether there are enough cynical readers.

Today's travel advice to Australians: ''Australians are advised not to travel to Bangkok (excluding Suvarnabhumi International Airport) due to the ongoing risk of sporadic violence. Australians in Bangkok are advised to monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. Australians should continue to avoid the Rachaprasong area in central Bangkok, as it remains unsafe.''

OMG There are people there today with brooms!

''We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Thailand due to the risk of ongoing civil unrest and sporadic violence. Australians in Thailand should avoid any protest sites, demonstrations or areas subject to ongoing operations by the security forces. Weapons and explosives continue to be found in multiple locations since the red shirt rally ended.''

All old, stale information. No tourists are being targeted. And they neglect to mention that Phuket is safe. So, pain and suffering and unnecessary social outcomes on Phuket . . .

The only Australian I am aware of who was slightly injured was in Bangkok on a visa run from Burma. He hadn't read any travel alerts. If there was one international travel warning system for all, it might even get looked at by travellers . . . and be believable.

Posted by J D on May 24, 2010 07:50


ALAN..How you misread people amazes me .. i am a happy retired brit who has lived in phuket for over 20 years.i care about phuket....i love phuket thats why i live here.
we all have opinions...that's why we post them. i think a lot of poeple who really know me will need something to make... YOU...HAPPY...

Editor: What would make me very happy, JD, is for you to offer comments based on logic and principle rather than emotive special pleading. You clearly love Phuket . . . and it appears you don't want to change it.

Posted by J D on May 24, 2010 08:38


You're not going to win this one. You're not the best judge of whether Ratchaprasong and Greater Bangkok is safe or not. Your papers headline reads that the Red Shirts are again planning to rally. I disagree that these travel alerts are outdated and create a false impression and that one international authority should issue such alerts.

Consular officials have first hand experience dealing with the problems that their own nationals get themselves into and are the best people to issue such travel alerts. I find the Travel alerts, factual and informative. What they do omit is the fact that you have more chance of being mugged, murdered or slaughtered on Phuket's roads than becoming a victim of a political protest!

Editor: I am not out to 'win' anything, only to improve the standard of service provided to all travellers. There are certainly better judges of the safety of Bangkok than me. That's not the point. But there are also far worse judges of the situation in the whole of Thailand, including Phuket, and most of them work in embassies. Your faith in consular officials is alarming. I bet you trust politicians, too! Some consular officials are better informed and do a much better job than others. My proposal would lift the standards of all the travel warnings, rather than leaving us to stagnate among the mediocre efforts that are mostly on display for all to see now. I fail to understand why you support a system that plainly fails nearly every test and creates needless pain and suffering.

Posted by Peter on May 24, 2010 11:49


To the Editor:
As a journalist your stories should be based on fats and not based on your assumptions, opinions or fiction. Does Phuket Wan report the news? Or is it a gossip column?
(Over the next few months, when the citizens of foreign countries become victims, as they surely must, the local authorities will be entirely within their rights to say to anxious embassy officials: ''Hey, if it wasn't for the lies you told back in May in your travel alerts, Phuket would not have this problem. Your citizen should have been safe.'')
What a ridiculous comment! I suppose you feel it's appropriate to blame others than the Thai authorities for policing the lawlessness in their own back yard? Then again you're probably just another expat in Phuket attempting to do a job that they weren't qualified to do in their own country? As a means to live the dream!

Editor: ''Based on fats''? I think you must be looking for the Jenny Craig site. Are you another critic with no genuine argument, just a chip on your shoulder? It seems so, judging from the mindless invective and lack of intellectual input in your comment.

There was a round of applause today at a meeting involving the leading people on Phuket representing both expats and Thai authorities. It came when the German honorary consul announced that Phuket was consciously excluded from Germany's travel warning, because it is considered safe. So the Germans here are safe, the Taiwanese here are safe . . . but the Australians and the British and the Americans need to be very, very careful.

I was there, listening to informed opinions. Where were you? But thanks, anyway, for your advice on how to do my job.

The facts are that the current travel alert system does not work. It's not accurate, it's not fast, and it's not suitable for the 21st century. The facts are it causes unnecessary economic hardship, and puts at future risk the very people it sets out to protect. The facts are it's unlikely to be around for much longer. Why? Because it's not believable and it's not responsible.

I wish I could tell you more about Jenny Craig. Sorry.

Posted by The Quan on May 24, 2010 18:43


To The Quan, Yes, Andrew Drummond is a fine journalist, and so to millions is Bill O'Reilly. If there was just one kind of journalism in this world, a lot of ideas and debate would never be aired. You may not like anything I write but then you have the freedom not to read it. This ''comment'' option is for feedback on the issues that the articles raise, not character assassination. You demand of others standards that you constantly breach in your own comments.

Posted by The Quan on May 24, 2010 23:23


barka on Sunday May 23,
yes i agree the editor is very stuborn and all way's think's he no's everything and that he is right, i think they need a editor, who dose not think he is perfect :) ( A thai person would be heap's better

Posted by Jamie on May 25, 2010 00:14


Dear editor, whats make you such an authority on all of this anyway? What makes you so qualified to disregard other people's opinion just cause they disagree with you? if you can't handle that, and need to be a baby about everything then don't bother writing your opinion because that's exactly what it is, your opinion. actually phuket and khao lak were devastated by the tsunami, unless you don't believe that 5000+ people dying and hundreds of millions of baht in damage the day after christmas was not devastating. where were you? What, by your definition would be "devastating"? where were you exactly?

Editor: I was on Phuket during the tsunami and reported from further along the Andaman coast in the days that followed. I started interviewing survivors on Boxing Day, hours after the tsunami. The big wave did not ''devastate'' Phuket. It slammed the coast and killed about 350 people on the island, but one road back from the sea in Patong, you'd never know it had happened. Many people continued with their lives as normal. It certainly devastated Khao Lak. (You should spend some time reading the definitive articles on this site). The problem was that CNN and the BBC reported that Phuket was ''devastated'' when it wasn't, and showed footage from Aceh province in Indonesia when reporting about Phuket. The thoughtless national travel alerts also warned of cholera and typhoid, which was never going to happen on Phuket. And it didn't happen anywhere in the Andaman. So Phuket's recovery - and the recovery of the whole region - was made more difficult by inaccurate travel alerts, and incomplete media reports. The same issue applies this time around, with readers around the world not being given the honest, complete truth about different parts of Thailand.
I only disagree with readers if I'm sure they've got their facts wrong, or they're clearly making mistakes in logic. Differences of opinion are not a problem.

Posted by kev on May 25, 2010 14:09


so mr. morison thinks that the tsunami wasn't devastating? what exactly would you call it alen and where were you when it happened. I would like to know how you arrived at that opinion. i was in it and witnessed quite a lot of devastation. people died, sir!

Editor: You are repeating yourself, Kev. The tsunami was ''devastating'' in many places, but it did not ''devastate'' Phuket. It damaged and destroyed a slice of coastal buildings and killed about 350 people on the island. As I've written elsewhere, Phuket had 10 times the population of Khao Lak but Khao Lak suffered 10 times the casualties. That's devastation. Phuket continued to be a holiday destination for tourists and the New Year's Eve party in Patong was regarded as one of the best ever.

Posted by kev on May 25, 2010 16:43


I get that misleading (about Phuket) travel advisories cause unnecessary damage to the tourism trade there, but I suppose the wider question - and the one that various posters in different ways are trying to pose - is: Is Phuket's long-term health or otherwise determined by the political or local climate?

For example, if political stability returns, travel advisories are dropped etc., will Phuket tourism return to previous levels? From what I've read, before the political events/travel alerts, Phuket room occupancies were holding up as against previous years, but people were spending less. The concentration now seems to be on emerging Asian markets, particularly China.

I'd love to see a breakdown of holidaymakers to Phuket by country of origin. It might either confirm or contradict my feeling that amongst European and Anglophone nations, the word-of-mouth about Phuket is not favorable and they are looking elsewhere.

The travel advisories will pass. What will remain are the ingrained problems stemming from Phuket's local political and commercial situation.

Editor: The TAT once supplied a country-by-country breakdown for Phuket, supplied by resorts, but it broke down. We were pleased to see Suvarnabhumi nation-by-nation figures for a time, but now they seem to have been made secret. You may well be right. Phuket is a durable brand but work needs to be done to restore its intrinsic appeal. The future problem may not be with politics, but rip-offs and bad word-of-mouth on the Internet.

Posted by Doug on May 25, 2010 18:16


I agree with this.

And, well, hmm, the BBC and CNN, well, uhmm...

Need I say more? Ok then .. Well I would believe my very very imaginative kid over those two.

Posted by Sean on May 25, 2010 19:42


You are right Alan. Not sure where all the criticism of your article is coming from. I had just returned home to America before the Tsunami and recall vividly on numerous occasions getting very frustrated at the reporting by supposed responsible mainstream media doing exactly as you said. Showing truly devastated parts of SEA while reporting on Phuket, which, while having extensive damage a block or two right along the beach areas, was not wholly "devastated" in any way as was reported. Very frustrating.

Posted by Anonymous on May 25, 2010 20:40


@Doug: Right on, man.

I, too, suspect that that among Western countries, the word is out and Phuket is no longer viewed as positively as it was in the past. Combined with the weak economies of the West and their crumbling currencies, I'd expect declining visitor numbers from those areas. It seems like the only things holding the place up are the Chinese and Gulf markets.

I'd be interested to see data that confirms or negates these otherwise unsubstantiated suspicions.

Posted by D on May 25, 2010 21:09

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