This article is re-produced in full from The Phuket News (with the exception of paragraph headers). Wichit na Ranong speaks his mind on what’s ailing the long term development of Phuket tourism. Another tourism personality who has similar concerns is Indonesia’s Anak Agung Gde Agung. Its’s another very good read as well.
Lack of planning
Interviewed by a new Thai-language magazine, Saphan Hin, Mr Wichit, whose family owns the Pearl Hotel in Phuket Town, the Indigo Pearl Resort at Nai Yang Beach, and the Toyota dealerships on the island, among other businesses, said that the lack of any real tourism planning had allowed the island to spiral “out of control”.
The result, he says, is general disorganisation, with deteriorating environment: dirty and unorganised beach area, airport congestion, traffic jams, negative impact on local people and other problems. “Tourists want to come to Phuket, which has resulted in more and more business people wanting to invest in Phuket, establishing hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
“But people’s greed has grown, which has resulted in their good-heartedness shrivelling and criminality growing.
“The problems have been evident for a while”, he says, “manifesting in environmental degradation and a rising tide of criticisms from tourists, and growing bad effects on ordinary local people. Tourism should not have a negative impact on local people.”
He warned that Phuket may no longer be counted as a world class tourism destination because of a slide in the overall quality of the destination.
“Tourists come to Phuket for the beach and if the beach is not attractive, there is no reason for them to come. We don’t have to try to improve any other facilities if the core product is deteriorating as the tourists won’t come any way.” He also criticised central and local authorities for their inability to address the problems.
Lack of understanding of issues
“Most of the governing bodies in Phuket, unfortunately, don’t understand tourism development in depth yet and there is no evidence that they have engaged any expert for advice.
“They may know tourism from the tourist’s perspective, but do not consider the view of professional tourism administrators to manage the destination. This has created a concern as they have both money and authority, but fail to do their job thoroughly.”he argues.
Lack of continuity
“Moreover, governors appointed by the Central Government come for just a short period of time and move on. “How could they solve the problems in such a time frame?
“I have heard many people say they come and they go but the problems stay.
“The old problems remain unsolved and the new ones are accumulating.
Lack of management
“Central to fixing Phuket’s woes, he said in the interview, “is cleaning up the messiness along the island’s beaches.
“Phuket’s beaches are the core products. There are many shops, bars, food stalls, restaurants, sun beds, discotheques and others businesses along the beach that make a mess out of the core product itself.
“The beaches must be clean and and well organized, otherwise it is useless trying to improve or create other attractive services and facilities.”
Tourism leadership & honesty
At the end of the interview, Mr Wichit urges the next generation of business people on the island, “Be the leader and not the follower for the products and services. Be creative.
“And be honest to your own profession and your guests.”
Mr Wichit is a direct descendant of famed 19th Century Phuket Governor Kaw Sim Bee.
In the 1980s, recognising that the tin industry on the island was in permanent decline, he led the drive to establish a new industry, tourism, to take its place, successfully lobbying the government to support it, and making many overseas trips to establish the island on the tourism map.
Mr Wichit is the first President of the Tourism Council of Thailand and was the founding president of the Phuket Tourist Association. He was also formerly on the board of Thai Airways International and Tourism Authority of Thailand.