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The Phuket region has sun, sand, service. But what about security?

Phuket's Plea: Stop the Tourism Rollercoaster

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
TOURISM leaders on Phuket are growing weary of the constant cycle of damage and repair that is ripping the industry apart, Phuketwan was told today.

Having just squandered 20 million baht on a road show to China that will now produce no new visitors, the frustration of local Tourism Association of Thailand director Setthapan Putthani is typical.

''It's time the Government solved some of the country's real problems,'' he said. ''Why do these crises keep happening over and over?''

China, in reaction to gunfire on the streets in Bangkok at the weekend as the red shirts protested, urged its citizens to come homer or avoid trips to Thailand.

The issuing of that alert and similar warnings by about two dozen other countries undid months of hard work, some of it performed at senior level in China by the Thai Foreign Minister, Kasit Pirom.

China's travel warning, imposed in November during the occupation of both major Bangkok airports, was lifted after high-level lobbying just before Chinese New Year in February.

''Phuket has the best hospitality in the world,'' Khun Setthapan said. ''Sun, sand, service, the Andaman region has it all.

''But security? When something happens in Bangkok, the whole country suffers.''

Estimates of a lower than normal low season on Phuket, largely because of the world economic downturn, have now dropped even further.

If resorts on Phuket average 30 percent occupancy between May and November, they will be doing well. Other destinations in Thailand will be fortunate to reach half that.

Thousands of jobs that resorts looked like saving as recently as last week are now on the line.

Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said: ''Layoffs are inevitable. We may lose up to 200,000 people this year if the situation is not resolved.''

Thailand needs to work at its international image to restore its tourism industry, said Methee Tanmanatragul, president of the Thai Hotels Association, Southern Chapter.

He welcomed the ending of hostilities in the streets of Bangkok.

''Thailand needs to be seen to be stable,'' he said, ''and it's difficult to see that just yet.''

Internal disasters over the past three years, from the 2006 coup to the Phuket airport siege to long blockades at Bangkok airports and the Pattaya Asean conference takeover, all highlighted the country's instability, Khun Methee said.

''The government has emerged from the Bangkok showdown with considerable credibility but it now needs to address the tourism industry's requirements quickly,'' he said.

''Safety and stability are what visitors require. Good value comes second. Somebody needs to apologise to tourists for the instability of the past three years.''

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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You have become as all the rest of the press. Until a few weeks ago you seemed to have an independent opinion.
How can you say that FM was working hard for months when he was enjoying actively the yellow shirt Bangkok airport closure?
It's pity that you are now blowing the same horn as everybody else.

Posted by Tea money on April 15, 2009 20:50

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Tea money, forgot your calendar? The yellow shirts were back in 2008 while the FM has been working hard since we finally got a government (hopefully).

Posted by More for coffee on April 16, 2009 08:10

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I've said it before, and I will insist. It is not only the political problems in Bangkok and the South that is hurting Phuket tourism. Phuket has turned into a jungle of badly planned buildings, condos and hotels. It also needs a great clean -up, streets and drains included ! Who will pay 5 star prices for these eye-sores ?

Posted by elizabeth on April 20, 2009 22:13

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''Phuket has the best hospitality in the world''
I can't believe it.
No one can say so after knowing these drivers.

Posted by Anonymous on April 21, 2009 08:44

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If, by "best hospitality" you mean the cringing kreng jai attitude and seven dolly birds (if that's your thing) taking your order and still cocking it up, then it couldn't be better. It's embarrassing.

Posted by Ann H on April 21, 2009 17:50

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Sorry all, I forgot to mention the thousands of tuc tuc drivers, who totally spoil the good image of any Thai, and use the beach in Patong as their own private toilet ! Shame ! Bangkok chaos has nothing against these dangerous drivers .

Posted by elizabeth on April 21, 2009 20:27

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My wife and I used to visit Phuket every year, this year we will go to Koh Chang and Bali. Like Elizabeth I have witnessed a Tuk Tuk driver using Patong beach as a toilet, it stopped me swimming in the ocean. Tailor touts, Time share touts,Rip off Tuks Tuks and now Bondi Cigars ( Patong Copies ).No Thanks!

Posted by Terry on April 24, 2009 08:31


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