PHUKET: Langkawi, Phuket's rival holiday island destination in Malaysia, has just been given a blueprint for its next five-year strategy.
The blueprint provides ''fresh directions, a sharper focus, and new strategies to bring in investors, improve infrastructure, broaden the range of attractions, strengthen marketing, and develop skilled workers.''
The Langkawi blueprint has the potential ''not only to increase the number of visitors but also to raise the income and improve the livelihood of the island population.''
So where is the five year strategic blueprint for Phuket? Where are Phuket's fresh directions, Phuket's sharper focus, the investors, the infrastructure, the better marketing and the skilled workers?
You have to wonder how Phuket has succeeded as well as it has without a strategic blueprint. You have to wonder how many of the present problems might actually be solved if there was ''A Real Plan.''
Although public transport is acknowledged far and wide as Phuket's biggest problem, we've never seen anything approaching coordinated action to provide a clue as to where Phuket might be in five years, or 10 years.
Sure, Airports of Thailand has a plan for Phuket International Airport, two handfuls of light rail proposals are being scrutinised, the tuk-tuk drivers and the local taxi drivers are having pressure applied to abandon their monopoly, but where is the Phuket transport strategy?
How does it fit with the Phuket development strategy, the Phuket environmental strategy, and the Phuket marketing strategy?
If anyone happens to stumble across any of these blueprints, please let us know.
As far as we are able to tell, every Phuket local municipality has a plan but it doesn't necessarily take account of what's happening in neighboring municipalities, or what's in the best interests of the whole of Phuket.
Langkawi's master plan has been in place since the mid-1980s, when the island improved its tourism traffic from 200,000 to 300,000 in the space of a year by becoming a duty-free destination.
The master plan transformed Langkawi into a major tourism destination, attracting 2.5 million visitors last year compared to Phuket's 3.5 million.
''All this would not have been possible,'' says a report in the New Straits Times, ''without a master plan.
''The undoubted natural attractions that Langkawi is blessed with in abundance would not have been enough to bring in the visitors in such numbers.
''They need to be able to get to and get around the islands, places to stay and relax, and things to do.
''Above all, when tourists have to travel a distance and they can pick and choose, they need to be courted.
''It was, therefore, the Federal Government's direct involvement and the substantial public and private investments in infrastructure, facilities and promotional activities over the past 20 years that made it possible for Langkawi to become a leading island tourist attraction.
''Nevertheless, it was clear that a new blueprint was needed to further develop the tourist industry on the island and give it a new lease of life.
''Though Langkawi has made it into National Geographic's top 10 beaches in the world, it has still some way to go to catch up with the world's top 10 island tourist destinations like Phuket a little to the north, or Bali further down south.
''For this reason, the new five-year plan launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whose goal is to increase annual tourist arrivals to three million, double tourism revenue to RM3.8 billion, and create 4200 new jobs by 2015, is more than timely.''
What would also be timely is a blueprint strategy for Phuket from the Thai Government, a strategy that removes Phuket's transport problems and its reputation as an island where tourists are sometimes scammed, ripped off and mistreated, and imposes a real sense of order.
Our New Year's wish is for a Phuket strategic blueprint to give Phuket a real future.