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Australian pair’s ‘misunderstanding’ puts Phuket Airport taxis and van services in spotlight

The Thaiger

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Australian pair’s ‘misunderstanding’ puts Phuket Airport taxis and van services in spotlight | The Thaiger

When Australians Kate Chipperfield and Lauren Meinties filed their complaint about a 3,000 baht van fare from Phuket Airport to Kata, they had no idea of the chain of events that would follow.

Even the Thai PM got involved ordering Phuket officials to clamp down on rorts, and taxi and van drivers to stop ripping off tourists.

As the central character in the drama, van driver Phuriphat Chankaew said he never charged them 3,000 baht. It was 2,000 baht and there was a “misunderstanding”. In the end he was fined 2,000 baht by police, but not for any overcharging, instead he was fined for illegally picking up passengers at the airport.

Media were locked out of meetings between police, the van driver and the two Australian tourists.

The airport tout that intercepted the two Australian passengers, Narumon Jumpatong was also fined 2,000 for illegally soliciting customers. He was allowed to roam the areas inside the terminal. How?

President of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, Thanusak Phungdet spoke out during the week saying that there should be signage clearly available for passengers when they arrive signalling the prices (there already is) and that the prices should be clearly laid out in many languages. He laid the blame at the feet of the Airports of Thailand who manage the airport.

Australian pair's 'misunderstanding' puts Phuket Airport taxis and van services in spotlight | News by The Thaiger

Phuket International Airport website

Australian pair's 'misunderstanding' puts Phuket Airport taxis and van services in spotlight | News by The Thaiger

Just one of many signs around the airport arrivals area

Other local tourism industry luminaries have spoken out during the week telling the media that the incident with the two Australian tourists had “reflected badly on Phuket’s tourism image”.

Phuket public transport continues to be out of step with much of the rest of the country where taxis will routinely cost two to three times more than for the same distance travelled in Bangkok and Tuk Tuk prices can reach extortionate levels for short journeys around Patong and between towns on the west coast of the island.

Even Grab Cars in Phuket have had to adjust their fares to match the high fares demanded by the island’s taxi cabals.

Both Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK) seem to manage much more orderly taxi and public transport systems. In Don Mueang people taking a taxi receive a queue number, have an air-conditioned room with seating to wait, a line of customer service attendants to serve you and an orderly queue of polite, uniformed taxi drivers waiting to take passengers where they want to go.

Users of this excellent service wonder why the same infrastructure can’t be set up in Phuket, given that both Phuket International Airport and Don Mueang are operated by Airports of Thailand.

Scams and over-pricing from airport taxi drivers from Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang are few, compared to the daily complaints Phuket officials receive about rorts and poor service from Phuket Airport public service providers.

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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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