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Jet-skis threaten Phuket tourism industry, says Ambassador



PHUKET: Jet-ski safety issues were again pushed to the front line during a meeting today, as they remain a serious concern on the island, explained the Netheralands’ ambassador to Thailand.

“There are number of issues that are important to us, such as beach safety, beach management accommodations, competitive pricing for taxis and tuk-tuks, and jet-skis,” said Karel Hartogh, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Thailand, after a meeting with the governor today.

“Most people on the island are not fond of jet-skis. They want to know if Patong is going to change its policy. If not, they will look for different beaches.”

A poll that ran on the Phuket Gazette website earlier this year supports Amb Hartogh’s position, as a staggering 75% of all respondents – including tourists – voted that jet-skis should have no place on Phuket’s beaches.

The poll, which received 6,362 votes, nearly 3,000 of which were cast by tourists, asked: “Should jet-ski operators be allowed to operate on Phuket’s beaches?”

Only 5 per cent of the tourists who took part in the poll voted, “Yes, they provide an activity that many tourists enjoy”, while a further 18 per cent called for better regulations governing jet-ski related activities.

Like tourists, the majority of Thai nationals and local expats called for an outright ban on all jet-skis in Phuket, with 73% and 76% of votes cast respectively by these groups.

Amb Hartogh pointed out that the tourism industry is very competitive, and there are a number of other options for tourists who don’t want to put up with jet-skis.

Limited action has been taken against jet-ski operators as a whole, despite the death of a Russian tourist in a jet-skiing accident and a number of other dangerous encounters at Patong, Nai Harn and Surin Beach last year (story here).

“It is not only on behalf of Dutch tourists and expats that I am raising those questions, but also on behalf of the local economy. This issue is affecting the tourism industry in Phuket,” he said.

“I think the number of tourists coming from the Netherlands – which has always been huge – is dropping year after year. It’s a shame.”

“I’ve been to Phuket many times. I enjoy the beaches with my family, but even I am hesitating to come to Patong Beach.”

Mark Kent, British Ambassador to Thailand, backed Amb Hartogh’s position.

“The important thing is not just to have regulations. You must ensure that these regulations are enforced and that jet-ski owners act in an appropriate manner,” Amb Kent said.

Despite the concerns raised by the ambassadors, the overwhelming majority of tourists and the public at large, Phuripat Theerakulpisut, the controversial Phuket Marine Office Chief, insisted to the Gazette that jet-ski operators are well controlled by his department and are ‘no problem’ for the island.

— Chutharat Plerin


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