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The view of Phuket from Sydney is a little different

Future Phuket, the Good . . . and the Not So Good

Monday, September 27, 2010
THE BUZZ behind the up-front table-top talk on last week's Phuket road show to Australia centres on two key issues: Phuket's environment, and the tuk-tuks.

Because Phuket has so much to offer, the Aussies will keep coming in large numbers.

But after spending five days talking to resort managers and travel agents, Phuketwan can say with certainty that the concerns on both sides are mostly about the future, and growing.

Resort managers fear that unless a strategy is put in place to preserve Phuket's natural treasures, loss of visitors to other destinations will be inevitable.

On the consumer side, Aussie travel agents' main criticism is of the lack of a Phuket public transport system and the high fares of tuk-tuks and taxis, which are still perceived as rip-offs, even if the system is now a little more orderly.

Rip-offs and environmental tragedies aside, the road show was categorised as a success, with an excellent turnout of key players in Sydney and Brisbane to meet Phuket resort representatives.

Among some of the key people who came to talk Phuket were the product manager, Flight Centre, the marketing manager, Pinpoint Travel, the managing director, Asia Specialist Holidays, the product manager, Asia Escape Holidays, the regional industry sales manager, Virgin Blue, the marketing manager, Creative Holidays, the managing director, Honeymoon Worldwide Holidays, sales managers for Jetstar and Virgin Blue, and the Australian general manager of Thai Airways International.

There's a deep concern, though, within the resorts about the lack of skilled staff. Tourists continue to be surprised at the difficulty in finding people among resorts' staff who can speak good English.

With new resorts opening constantly, there's a regular loss of trained staff who continue to move up to better-paid jobs. The result is a descending scale of good English-speakers, from the five-stars, where skills are quite high, on downwards.

In rival destinations, English skills among resort staff is a given: people expect it and are surprised when it cannot be found on Phuket.

''Phuket needs good management of its infrastructure,'' said Angkana Tanetvisetkul, managing director and director of marketing at the Peach Group. The group includes the Peach Hill (four star 250 rooms), Cannacia (four star 114 rooms) and the Peach Blossom (four star 118 rooms), all in Kata-Karon.

''Competition is growing more intense too,'' said Khun Angkana. ''We really need to renovate every three years.'' Most of the guests book for two or three weeks, she said, and advance bookings of 45 percent for the high season were promising. But the Peach Group plans to join other road shows to find new markets, probably in China and the Middle East.

Blue Ocean Resort (three-and-a-half star 120 rooms, open three months) in Patong had two representatives on the trip, general manager Sarayuth Mallam, who is also MD of Royal Phuket Marina and a university professor, and Pawan Sethichaiyen, the financial controller.

Khun Sarayuth,a lawyer, said: ''It hardly seems fair for resorts to do all the marketing, to bring tourists to Phuket, then to have tuk-tuk drivers stop them from coming back by ripping them off.

''The tuk-tuk drivers do not know how difficult it is to get tourists to come. They are a self-interested group. Perhaps if they sent someone on a road trip, they might begin to understand that it's time they stopped being so selfish.''

He said there were signs of ''cancer'' in many aspects of Phuket that needed to be treated. ''If something goes seriously wrong in one part, all the island is gone.'' Khun Sarayuth was not the only one using strong language about Phuket and its problems.

With increased competition and greater awareness among customers, the days when resorts and Phuket's administrators could highlight the positives and ignore the negatives appear to be coming to an end.

Phuketwan made the trip to Australia courtesy of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation. It was the first time a Phuket media representative had been invited to go on a road trip.

Others on the trip were Paiboon Upatising, chief executive of the PPAO, Sampote Thianthong and Thewi Thianthong of the Department of Local Administration, Somboon Chirayus, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, Bhuritt Maswongssa, vice president of the PTA, Mongkol Boonporn, PTA committee, Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, director of the Tourism Association of Thailand, Phuket, Buayan Suwanmanee, director of Tourism and Sport, Phuket, Sumonrat Na Tauathung, Kata Palm Resort and Spa, Monthakan Saeteng, Kata Palm Resort and Spa, Chalyuth Sophannarat, i-Phuket, Angkana Tanetvisetkul, Peach Group resorts, Frode V Sund, Banthai Hotel and Resort, Oranooch Boonpong, Banthai Hotel and Resort, Scott Galloway, the Village Coconut Island, Laddawan Somniyam, Dewa Phuket, Somjai Tungkoo, Twinpalms Phuket, Ajaree Saengin, Twinpalms Phuket, Piyawan Chirayus, Patong Merlin Hotel, Kobkaew Narkood, Novotel Phuket Resort, Jean Pierre Dousse, Ayara Hilltops, Nachacha Lekviriyakul, Patong Paragon, Parichat Kongson, Patong Paragon, Anchayaporn Thongsom, the Royal Phuket Yacht Club, Suthima Rosami, Bamboo House, Krittapas Silapanont, Bamboo House, Sarayuth Mallam, committee of PTA, Pawandev Sethichaiyen, Blue Ocean Resort, Oraual Paethong, Tropical Group, Javed Pyarejan Shaikh, Horizon Beach, Kittibut Raksanaves, Acco Travel, Chonladar Punjamavat, Acco Travel.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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My Thai girlfriend who's speaks very good English and has extensive experience managing boutique and 5 star hotel staff's
can't find a job because she's 35 years old. She's very attractive and could pass for 27 easily. But every she's constantly turned down for hotel positions when they look at her I.D. card. This would be illegal in the U.S. where I'm from. Also Burmese workers are taking the jobs Thai's used to get because of their English skill and lower pay scale.

Posted by Let's be honest on September 27, 2010 08:58

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I've noticed that 35 and up seem to speak English very well, under that and the rate falls and younger people almost never. Could have to do with US presence in 60's affecting educational policies?

Posted by Ripley on September 27, 2010 09:22

Editor Comment:

I doubt it. Experience, probably.

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Please please please send a Thai translation of this article to the Foreign Affairs Department and the Interior Ministry.

Posted by helen on September 27, 2010 09:33

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The tuk tuks are the same as always. The pricing hasn't changed. I have been to Patong several times in the last month and its still same game.
It's crazy that a small group is effecting the overall tourist business in Phuket. The tuk tuks are hurting thousands of people working in the tourist industry in Phuket.
The hotels and resorts managers and owners should contact the govenment in Bangkok because nothing is done about from the local govenment in Phuket.
Lots of talk and no action. Enough talk, do whats right for all of Phuket and not a small group that is hurting Phuket.
You have to ask yourself why this is allowed to happen here, and we know the answer.
It's time for a real transportation plan that will be good for locals and tourists.

Posted by James on September 27, 2010 11:38

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The reason most employees in 5 star hotels speak reasonable english is the amount of training employees in these resorts receive for english classes.

So hotel owners operators,stop complaining about poor level of english and hire some english teachers.

Posted by wm on September 27, 2010 11:43

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Always TUK TUKs but no action. Phuket must be losing millions of baht every year because of the selfish few.

Posted by Lord Jim on September 27, 2010 12:51

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"Tourists continue to be surprised at the difficulty in finding people among resorts' staff who can speak good English."

I trust they cater to foreign nationals visiting THEIR countries as well. I wonder how 'G'Day M8' translates into URDU or Swahli?
Maybe they are still working on the premise that the louder you speak English the more people will understand!

Posted by Mister Ree on September 27, 2010 22:40

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I work in a hotel that has some staff with a high level of English. However my English classes and training are far and few between.
The staff that speak English well have taken the initiative to learn and study.

They go to private classes on their days off, the buy English training books and study on their own time, they watch programs about learning English. They have dictionaries with them and take opportunities to talk to the guests.

These people are all below management staff. Also we have a very very low turn over rate, perhaps the fact the staff get all of the service charge and health insurance helps retain them.

I will say I have met some Burmese working with tourist and their English was what I would call fluent.

Posted by Vfaye on September 27, 2010 23:59

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Wrong Ripley wrong when people first came to Phuket there was very little English spoken and those that spoke it were ones who had studied abroad and there were only a few off them. Years later as people saw the hand writing on the wall there was a rush among the educated to speak English

Posted by Brian on September 28, 2010 00:58

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Fuji restaurant in Central Festival is searching for new staff. About 6 different positions, from the manager (max 26 years old) to the trainee (max 23 Years old). Only one till 35: the dishwasher...

Posted by Richard on September 28, 2010 01:28

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Yes Richard, this is exactly what I was talking about. You can't expect to have great English skills from your staff if all you want to hire is cute young things to impress your customers or have eye candy for managers to look at all day. This would be age discrimination in almost any other western country.

Posted by Let's be honest on September 28, 2010 13:40

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" Let's Be Honest" No not age discrimination but sexism which is one of Thailand's specialities. But of course PhuketWan reader comment editor says "sexism no longer exists in Thailand. "
What a xxxxing BIMBO she is.

Posted by Ripley on September 30, 2010 10:06

Editor Comment:

Ripley, we said nothing of the kind. But you do have a vivid imagination. And you sound more like Horse Doctor every day.

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Everyone condemns the Tuk Tuk drivers. It is like the old civilisations that killed the messenger. The drivers have to charge these outrageous fares because of the costs imposed on them to operate. The problem, as usual, goes right to the top where people, who have never ridden in a Tuk Tuk let alone driven one, are pocketing huge profits every week. No wonder they want more Tuk Tuks on the street even though we have about 80% over capacity now, because they will charge the same exorbitant rates for the new guys to operate, filling their pockets while drivers have to fight even harder to earn a crust. Is it any wonder the poor guys get aggressive when tourists don't want to pay the inflated fares they are forced to charge?

Posted by Amazed on October 11, 2010 03:17


Thursday October 6, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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