PHUKET: The passing of Bill Owen leaves his many Phuket friends in great sadness. His battle with lung cancer came to an end at a hospital in Swansea, South Wales, the city where he started life 59 years ago.
Bill came to Phuket 22 years ago, in October 1987, on a brief visit after attending a friend’s wedding in New Zealand. He and his wife, Linda Towell, were immediately taken with the beauty of the island and moved here permanently shortly thereafter.
“I was determined to leave Margaret Thatcher’s England at that point in my life and considered several places around the world, but we both chose Phuket for its natural beauty,” he told a mutual friend.
Bill and Linda set up their first business, The Travel Company, in Patong and almost immediately became the island’s most innovative and successful travel agency, not only selling tickets and tours but also organizing upscale meetings and incentive gatherings that were beginning to come to Phuket with the opening of the island’s early five-star resorts.
Bill was no stranger to creating a successful party. After graduating from Portsmouth University with a BSc in Economics, he spent the next 15 years as the European marketing manager for a merchandising company that handled big music and entertainment events all over the continent.
With the Travel Company, Bill became the island’s expert at organizing an event that could compete with those in major southeast Asian destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore. His talent at satisfying corporate clients when they held meetings here contributed greatly to the early success of many of Phuket’s major resorts.
After about a decade, Bill and Linda sold the Travel Company to Diethelm Events and he became the Director of local operations. Then, in 2002, he branched out on his own with long-time friend Worapot Srabua to set up Oriental Events.
Most recently, Bill had been working as the European representative for that company, attending trade shows in Spain and Germany.
He had been receiving treatment for his lung cancer over the past two years, but it was only in the past months that the disease began to quickly undermine his health.
Bill had a passion for adventure and exploration. His several years of columns in the Phuket Gazette always exuded that passion, inspiring readers to go and experience for themselves the many places he wrote about – not just in Thailand, but all over the Southeast Asian region.
He never lost his love for Phuket and he will be sorely missed by his scores of friends and fellow travelers here.
— Bruce Stanley
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