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Trends: Phuket's Message to the New Minister

Tuesday, February 12, 2008
THE APPOINTMENT of a new Minister for Tourism and Sport poses Phuket's best chance to resolve some of the continuing problems that prevent the island from developing its full potential.

''Developing'' is probably an inappropriate word because, on the island, it implies covering something green and growing with grey, grey concrete.

And indiscriminate development is one of the negatives that the new minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, should try to prevent.

As most tourism industry observers and the local TAT office understand, the one thing that Phuket's immediate future does not require is more concrete.

Nor does it require more tourists, at least not until a national plan is in place to adequately support their needs and protect Thailand's natural treasures.

What Khun Weerasak should do quickly is to end the confusion of the annual numbers game.

Each year, the authorities set a higher target for international tourists visiting Thailand.

Yet the last thing Phuket needs is more tourists. The increasing number simply puts at risk the coral reefs and natural beauty of the Andaman coast and Phang Nga Bay.

Phuket needs to retain the existing numbers of visitors, but transform the package tourists into individual travellers, who are more inclined to spend money, and to return to the island.

The current high season is an economic disaster for many sections of the tourism industry because of shortsighted economic priorities on the part of some resorts.

From now on, they should know better.

And it's time for Khun Weerasak to make a fresh start by not talking up the numbers.

Let other countries brag about such things. Let them compete for the package tourists and the slim margins.

As long as its natural beauty lasts, Thailand's long-term future as a tourist destination is guaranteed.

To ensure the future of Phuket and its people, let's have a strategy put in place soon that protects and profits the island.

BURMA numbers fall
TOURIST ARRIVALS in Myanmar almost halved in the last three months of 2007 after the military junta crushed popular monk-led protests, killing at least 31 people.

The English-language Myanmar Times said the number of foreign visitors fell 24 percent in October, immediately after the crackdown, and dropped 44 percent in the last quarter of the year from the same period of 2006.

''Tourist arrivals during the whole year fell by 8.8 percent in 2007 from a year ago,'' Deputy Tourism Minister Aye Myint Kyu, a brigadier-general, was quoted as saying.

Anyone thinking of going to Burma should visit in May, when a popular constitutional referendum has been promised.

The junta is in the habit of making promises.

Tourists reported much of what happened during the monks' protest and crackdown in 2007.

Having visitors there may be the only way accurate countrywide reports of the success or failure of the referendum emerge.

Look for TRENDS regularly at Phuketwan

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Monday October 18, 2021
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