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All the Phuket Games 2012 hype cannot conceal sky-high prices

Phuket's Prices Madness Remains Tourism's Biggest Turnoff

Monday, May 28, 2012
News Analysis

PHUKET: Even with stormy weather, Phuket will seem like paradise for visitors from other provinces who have arrived on the island for the Phuket Games 2012.

They are bound to enjoy themselves in the beach holiday haven . . . until they have to buy food or want to make a short trip.

Then the reality will sink home: Phuket is rapidly becoming too expensive for the average Thai as a place to visit. For some, it's even becoming too expensive as a place to live.

Just how far Phuket's cost of living has moved away from the rest of Thailand was confirmed last week when Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak tried to figure why Phuket's prices were so high.

''I am not sure I understand,'' he said. ''Phuket's basic cost of living is 30 to 40 percent higher than other parts of Thailand. It's possible to explain 10 percent of that extra cost by the higher rents.

''The rest? I can't understand that.''

Perhaps the vice governor should look at the greed factor. Although food for sale in other southern provinces has to be trucked in, just as food is transported to Phuket, only on Phuket have the margins been magnified beyond acceptance.

The children who are frolicking on the beaches of Phuket should enjoy the experience because on present trends, by the time they are grown adults, the beaches of Phuket are likely to be too expensive for Thais to enjoy.

At present, a bowl of noodles that costs 25 or 30 baht in most of Thailand will cost 50 to 70 baht on Phuket, with higher prices in western Phuket than eastern Phuket.

Those who dare to set foot in a tuk-tuk or a taxi and expect to pay what they pay back home will return to their provinces with nightmare tales of rip-off Phuket.

There is no point in maintaining the illusion that west coast Phuket will stay a place for Thais to enjoy a holiday for much longer.

When Vice Governor Somkiet met at the Office of Commercial Affairs in Phuket City last week, he was seeking 16 grocery outlets across Phuket to be part of a scheme to keep the prices of 20 basic food items affordable.

In Kathu, the district with Patong at its heart, not one single grocer came forward to be part of the scheme. And that's with each shop being given a grant of 9000 baht a month to keep prices low.

Vice Governor Somkiet admitted that some retailers figure tourist places can be more expensive, so they boost the prices. International visitors play their part, by generally having the money to pay more.

By the time that tourists realise that prices on Phuket's west coast are higher than those on the east coast of Phuket, and much higher than those elsewhere in Thailand, it's too late. The cycle of the rip-off continues.

Vice Governor Somkiet had a sentence for the rip-off merchants: ''Please don't do it.''

We wish the vice governor a large audience of honest traders, but we suspect not many are listening out there.

Phuket is becoming more international and those who cash in on this trend will eventually turn people away, even those who currently are content to pay Thailand's highest prices.

As for public transport, where the rip-offs are massive . . . in Europe recently, we met a Thai named Tep Muimai,42. Originally from Bangkok, Khun Tep has been living in Hamburg, Germany, for the past 15 years.

He returned to Thailand for a break late last year, and decided to check out Phuket for the first time because so many Germans were regular visitors.

''Without realising, I got into a tuk-tuk and went on a short trip,'' he said. ''When the driver asked me for 500 baht, I almost fell over.

''I am used to the high cost of living in Europe, but that was ridiculous. I even went into a dive shop, and asked whether I was being ripped off. The people just shrugged their shoulders and said: 'It's normal.'

''I will be going back to visit Thailand. But Phuket? Never again.'' There will be hundreds of Thai visitors coming to the same conclusion on Phuket this week.

Those who imagine reactions will be different are living in a fool's paradise.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Vice Governor Somkiet had a sentence for the rip-off merchants: ''Please don't do it.''

That should do it. He said "Please".

Posted by soupdragon on May 28, 2012 11:50

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Where is my comment I sent today to Phuketwan?
At least if you bother to publish it for whatsoever reason(s), Phuketwan should send a personal email to infom us.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 28, 2012 13:45

Editor Comment:

The comments are meant to be for readers to provide extra information about the issue, Whistle-Blower. If i had to explain why we don't publish some responses, I would be forced to give up journalism. Stick to the topic, make your response accurate and informative, and you will usually get published. You more than most have no reason to complain.

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Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Khun Paintoon PANCHAIYAPHUM organize a "Big Cleaning Day" on Friday, June 01st, 2012 and Saturday, june 02nd, 2012.
What I do not understand is why Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), with the help of Marine Police and other Government Agencies do not plan a full crackdown and close illegal businesses settled on public lands on Racha Yai Island as well those polluting the soil and beaches.
It is not to the divers and tourists at large to clean the mess done by greedy selfish opportunists.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 28, 2012 14:19

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There is so much that needs addressing in Phuket, with not one official able to do anything other than give lip service.

How anyone label Phuket or other parts of Thailand a 'World Class Tourist Destination' is beyond comprehension. WCTD's don't have power lines hanging all over the place. They don't have inadequate public transport. They don't have tourists dying from electrocution. There's lots of other things that WCTD's don't have.

The Thai Officials don't need to wake up, they are already full aware of all the problems and inflated prices is just one. Even the Thai Government is doing it by charging foreigners 10 times what is charged to a Thai National for entering National Parks.

It comes down to just a few things - Greed and the complacency that Thailand is beyond reproach and this attitude will continue while there is so much corruption.

Posted by Graham on May 28, 2012 14:19

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Editor: " ...I would be forced to give up journalism, ... "
It would be the best thing you could do!

Posted by Antony on May 29, 2012 18:55

Editor Comment:

How witty for your first-ever comment, Antony.

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Usually, I buy a syrup for my stomach ache in town, at a small pharmacy. It costs 25 Baht.

This morning I was at Lotus-Thalang (the new one) I bought, at the inside chemist, the identical syrup, the same bottle size: it costed 38 Baht! Over 50%!

Posted by Malcom on May 29, 2012 19:17

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Even in begining of 2000 was expensive and steady increasing in costs while the salary was still the same. I remember first trip to Hadyai at that time and took the local tuktuks there, I was surprised when he told me 10 baht for the trip and already at that time a trip between Kata-Patong costed about 200Baht!

Posted by Xexpat on May 30, 2012 13:24

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"International visitors play their part"..No they play the whole part. If there was no international tourism in Phuket there would be no problem with high prices, guaranteed. That also explains the apparently mysterious difference in price between the west coast and other parts of the island. Phuket, as a toursit destiantion, is not made for the average Thai or anybody on a limited budget in general. Phuket goes upmarket, at least price wise. The problem is that while prices are going up, the place is still distinctly thirrd world in places, price rise with environmental degradation, power lines looking like spider web and stinking sewage and broken pavements is not a good recipe for future success.

Posted by christian on May 30, 2012 15:23

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The cost of transport for tourists is high, especially if they can't rent a car or bike, but where to park a car with almost all the places taken by "taxi"s. The foreigner food is expensive and there are a lot of tourist trap Thai restaurants. Most hotels give promotions and sometimes the hotel room can be the cheapest part of the holiday.

There is a lot of flexibility in prices on the west coast if you eat like a local and sometimes have to get a local to buy it for you as well things are much cheaper. However, you have to know where to go.

That said, this sort of thing happens all over the world. Phuket is expensive because it's a very popular tourist area. There are a lot of opportunists wanting to make they money as quick as they can and they don't care from whom.

The governor shouldn't try and limit prices, he should encourage competition, especially transport. Also, make sure that all people, local, expat and tourist alike, will abide by the law.

Posted by Ty on June 6, 2012 16:03


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