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PHUKET BUSINESS: Artificial reefs key to mass tourism dive industry

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET BUSINESS: Artificial reefs key to mass tourism dive industry | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: In the tourism game creating memories is everything, explains the Head of Development at Reef Worlds, Dave Taylor.

“If you can create a tourism memory then you have won your game. You have won everything, because that’s a memory that never leaves a potential client, and they always come back to it,” Taylor told the Phuket Gazette in an exclusive interview.

Reef Worlds was established three years ago with the goal of working alongside resorts to create sustainable artificial reef systems that help reduce tourism pressures on natural reefs. Reef Worlds are fully monetized discrete mini-marine “protected areas” within the resort’s own footprint, allowing them to brand the signature underwater experiences of their guests, explained Taylor.

“It’s something NGOs [non-government organizations] have been trying to do for years; engage developments to take stake in their oceans. Reef Worlds combines conservation with tourism to get the best out of both worlds,” he said.

We now have the technology, interest and mass tourism to allow for a company like ours to come to the fore and really blow out traditional perceptions of what an artificial reef is, Taylor added.

The company, based in Los Angeles in the United States, targets mass tourism across the globe. Reef Worlds has already visited Phuket to talk with two potential clients and is now in the concept stage for those projects.

Taylor pointed out that despite the good work being done by many artificial-reef-building NGOs there is little tourism value in what they do – and tourism drives the economy, especially true in places such as Phuket.

“What we are trying to do is build iconic forms underwater. Forms that people will approach and know from a distance…then when they get really close, they are truly blown away,” Taylor said.

Reef Worlds is attempting to create a moment for tourists akin to when Doctor Howard punched through the Valley of the Kings and shined his light inside. When asked what he saw, he whispered back, “I see incredible things”.

“We’ve got a great team. There are guys (with us) who worked on Avatar, Lord of the Rings, you name any Hollywood blockbuster that was really unique and eye popping (and) they worked on it,” Taylor explained.

During the design phase of a project, Reef Worlds looks at what iconic design forms are used at the resort and then works with those themes to create a “seamless transition from land to ocean,” Taylor said.

However, Reef Worlds is balancing it’s revolutionary push into the world of artificial reef construction with the essentials of sustainability.

By using crushed rock, from ancient coral beds, and low PH concrete for their structures they create a “super platform” for wildlife, such as corals to adhere to. These in turn attract the charismatic mega fauna like sharks and manta rays that tourists want to see, explained Taylor.

Taylor admitted Reef Worlds has turned down several projects due to the sites being unsuitable, as the potential clients had asked them to build on “A-class” reefs.

“(We were asked to build on) a beautiful staghorn coral forest, and they were like ‘let’s just move it'”, Taylor said.

“They were missing the whole point,” he continued.

What Reef Worlds is looking for are white-sand bottoms or crushed coral flats that are denuded of life.
“We promote ‘do no harm tourism’,” Taylor said.

As part of their “do no harm tourism” Reef Worlds provides 10 years of follow-up analysis for their reefs.

Reef Worlds is confident that their pieces, weighing between 4,500 to 18,000 kilograms are not going anywhere and guarantees them against category five hurricanes.

“If they actually come off the bottom we’ll replace them at our cost,” Taylor said.

Each individual piece can be stamped up to five times allowing a resort that only has ten designs to have fifty shapes put into the water.
“We design it to be cost effective for the resorts,” Taylor said.

A three acre site might cost US$ 100,000 and a project with all the bells and whistles from a kiddy tide pool to baited monoliths could cost up to US$ 1 million .
The reefs are a marketing tool, as each site will be completely branded to the resort with its own name and back story, explained Taylor.

“You need a little vision,” admits Taylor, “I’ve had conversations with folks who don’t dive and have been in the resort business for so many years, and they just look at us blankly – wait there is something beyond the hide tide mark?”

After serious coral bleaching and the amount of pressure on reef systems, wildlife is on the move, and people are going with it, Taylor said.
“We are trying to hold down the fort by giving folks what they want to really interact with,” he added.

“A Reef Worlds artificial reef is the ultimate marketing tool, because no one else has it. Holiday memories are being created and branded to you [the resort].

“And guests are going to take videos and images and put them up on social media sites, which gives exposure in a way you just can’t get to yet,” he said.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO | The Thaiger

“The rules signal greater willingness by countries around the world to rein in big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter that the governments fear have become too powerful with little accountability.”

India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social.

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The companies are also being made to publish a compliance report each month with details about how many complaints they’ve received and the action they took.

They’ll also be required to remove ‘some’ types of content including “full or partial nudity,” any “sexual act” or “impersonations including morphed images”

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told.

The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

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Business

Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO

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Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO | The Thaiger

When the airlines, in particular, were asking the government to put their hands in their pockets for some relief funding in August last year, it was genuinely thought that international tourists would be coming back for the high season in December and January. At the very least local tourists and expats would head back to the skies over the traditional holiday break. And surely the Chinese would be back for Chinese New Year?

As we know now, none of that happened. A resurge in cases started just south of Bangkok on December 20 last year, just before Christmas, kicking off another round of restrictions, pretty much killing off any possibility of a high season ‘bump’ for the tourist industry. Airlines slashed flights from their schedule, and hotels, which had dusted off their reception desks for the surge of tourists, shut their doors again.

Domestically, the hotel business saw 6 million room nights in the government’s latest stimulus campaign fully redeemed. But the air ticket quota of 2 million seats still has over 1.3 million seats unused. Local tourists mostly skipped flights and opted for destinations within driving distance of their homes.

As for international tourism… well that still seems months or years away, even now.

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