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Upgrade service to lure quality Phuket tourists

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Anoma Wongyai, 44, a Phuket native, has been the Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket and Phang Nga Office since March. She has a master’s degree in Tourism from the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, and has been working for the TAT since she was 21 years old.

Here, she talks about how quality service must come before quality tourists, and says that Thailand’s main selling point is still its people.

PHUKET: I’m not one of those people who think we should aim for higher and higher tourist numbers. In fact, I think tourism in Phuket is growing too fast to control right now.

Hotels are being built without proper support facilities, such as wastewater and garbage management systems, and our public transportation system is inadequate. We want people to enjoy all that Phuket has to offer, but if they can’t get around easily, how can they?

It’s often said that we should seek quality tourists in order to generate higher revenue from fewer people. The way I see it, this starts with us. To attract quality, we have to offer quality. Our focus should be on providing quality service.

Take transportation as one example. Because we don’t have adequate public transportation, we have illegal taxis. The high rates they charge attract people to the job, which multiplies the number of illegal taxis. Some of those drivers try to make more money by taking tourists to shops that offer the drivers a commission on sales. Tourists feel rightly upset by this.

A good public transportation system would really help us promote Phuket, and is one way to offer quality service.

I don’t mean to suggest that low-budget tourists aren’t welcome in Thailand. Everyone is welcome, anytime.

To my mind, Thailand’s selling point is still what it’s always been: the kindness of our people and Thai smiles. This fits with our slogan for this year: “Amazing Thailand: It begins with the people.”

We should promote the kind of activities that bring tourists closer to Thais, and allow them to have good emotional experiences. Such activities include cooking classes, learning Thai boxing and even living with local people.

If visitors like our people, they will like our place; if they like our place, they will come back.

We aren’t just marketing to foreigners, we’re also selling Phuket to Thais, but in a different way, of course. We even have a different slogan for our Thai audience: Long Rak Muang Thai (Fall in love with Thailand).

We want Thais to think of domestic travel as a way to help each other. With international tourism income down, Thais who travel within the country could make a contribution to our economy.

Other than that, we have trips aimed at what interests Thais; for example, religious tours, because Thais like to make merit. We are also offering bike tours, called “Two legs travel” and sports events such as marathons. And we have road shows in a number of provinces that advertise Phuket.

Not only do we promote Phuket, but we also promote Phang Nga. It’s easy for me to maintain tourist numbers in Phuket because it’s such a well-known place. If it seems like the island is getting overcrowded, I suggest Phang Nga to people who like nature or are looking for a quieter, more private place.

Our aim is to give people a wonderful holiday in Phuket or Phang Nga, and make them fall in love with us – not too much, but forever.

 

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