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The beauty of Phuket's lifestyle is harder to maintain

Answer Needed to Phuket's Biggest Question

Sunday, May 4, 2008
TRENDS
NEWS THAT two billion baht is going to be spent upgrading Phuket International Airport is probably the most important story reported on Phuketwan so far.

We would be delighted if other media also began looking into what the new airport development means for Phuket.

The 32.34 percent increase in the number of flights in 2007 is quite astonishing, and it's remarkable that the present airport staff managed to cope so well.

What's difficult to forecast, though, is the rate of Phuket's increasing popularity.

We did some quick back of the envelope figures and calculated that if the number of visitors keeps increasing at a 32.34 percent rate, total travellers to the island will reach 17 million within four years.

While most people will shake their heads and say ''That's ridiculous,'' the same people would have also thought it impossible for Phuket and the region to recover so speedily to more than 5.5 million visitors three years after the 2004 tsunami.

Let's face it, the Andaman region desperately needs forward planning. It has a few leaders of vision, but it desperately needs more.

And it needs people like the airport management team, those who can see the potential hurdles for the future and create a strategy to provide the solutions.

Local administrators who are only interested in making a quick baht have to be replaced by broader thinkers who are concerned about what the island will be like as a place to live in five years or 10 years.

The same applies to ''greater Phuket,'' the surrounding region, which is becoming increasingly important and will probably attract visitors at even faster growth rates than the island in the next few years.

The big decision can only be made by the Thais who call Phuket home. Do they want to continue attracting tourists at the same frantic pace, or achieve a balanced existence that preserves the island lifestyle?

If the rapid increase in arrivals does continue, what will life on the island be like? What can be done to retain not just the the island's own natural beauty, but the beauty of its lifestyle as well?

It's time that question was asked, and answered, by the island's leaders.

Johnny Come Lately
WHAT A PITY that there are not more large destination signs at eco-friendly resorts along the Andaman Coast. Here's what one of the world's top rugby players, Johnny Wilkinson, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain:

''I went to Thailand for the first time recently and thought it was absolutely amazing. It's difficult to name the area where I stayed but it was somewhere on the coast away from Phuket.

''It was literally rainforest and beach and it was just stunning. The weather, the climate, the tranquillity of the place and the unassuming nature of the people there made it really special.''

Sadly, the name of the destination just happened to escape him. Or maybe the British player, who once won a World Cup off his own boot, is keeping it to himself for future use?

And how about this for a quote:

''Its main beach is, by Australian standards, mediocre at best: narrow, grey sands are crammed with hired sunlounges and its waters carved by hooning jet skis and shrieking banana boaters.''

Sound familiar? Well, in this case the online author is talking about Pattaya, not Patong.

But with Phuket struggling to recognise where its future lies, who can say that it won't be said about Phuket's beaches soon?

Record Flights Spark New Phuket Airport Approval

Look for TRENDS regularly at Phuketwan

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