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Opinion: Snorkelling safety snafu

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The recent death of Chinese tourist Weidong Lu, 49, who was killed while snorkelling off Koh Racha Yai, further exemplifies the need to provide tourists with fully trained and certified tour guides.

Though it is uncertain whether or not a tour guide was present on the speedboat that was hired to carry Mr Weidong and his family, it still raises the issue of properly instructing tourists on how to snorkel before they are sent out in the water to fend for themselves.

Among the eight new guidelines highlighted by Santi Pawai, director of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS), is the requirement of all tour guides to be registered with the government, as well as tour companies to provide insurance in the event of the injury or death of a tourist.

However, I feel like there is a big gap between making sure the guides are legal and making sure tourists are covered by insurance. What about training the guides in the specific realm of tourism that they are employed in to better inform and take care of tourists they are responsible for?

I don’t mean to belittle the hard work that the government or MOTS have put into the new tour regulations. There are many well thought out and important points made.

It is just a little unnerving that the only sector of the tourism industry getting any flack over this is the diving industry, which, yes, has had its fair share of accidents but also has a reputation for very strict guidelines on who is allowed to dive as well as those certified to train and accompany the tourists.

I believe that if the government is taking a hard line on regulating the dive industry, then it is absolutely imperative that they look into regulating snorkelling as well. The number of deaths due to ill-informed tourists is staggering.

It is not enough to have them throw on a life jacket and think that they won’t drown. Proper breathing techniques and preventative measures need to be taught. And, in order for them to be taught, a certified tour guide or instructor must be present at all times to ensure safety.

It would be a simple and easy step to add to all of the other guidelines and could save countless lives as Phuket attempts to promote its brand of tourist safety internationally.

— Debbie Adams

 

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