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MOTS director lays out strict guidelines for tour operators

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Hundreds of tour operators gathered earlier this month to listen in on the government’s plans for Phuket’s tourism industry for the upcoming year.

Santi Pawai, director of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) Phuket Office revealed his plans, which include the completion of several projects already in the works (story here).

“We talked to the tour operators about our 2016 plan to make sure they are on the same page with us. I have made myself very clear that I will do whatever it takes to make Phuket a safe place for tourists,” said Mr Santi. “Those who do not follow the law will face the highest penalty.”

The tour guides and operators were briefed on eight different aspects of the industry.

TOUR OPERATORS AND TOUR COUNTER SERVICES

Identification cards have been issued to nearly 1,000 people who have been trained and approved to sell tour packages throughout the island.

Card holders are Thai nationals only and must carry their ID at all times.

“We will look to issue more ID cards soon. We already have about 500 more people in line for our next training session,” Mr Santi noted.

BUSINESS REGISTRATION

All shareholders will now be required to appear for questioning during the registration process in order to prevent nominee issues.

Should a business be granted registration, the licence will be handed to the business owners only.


DIVE INDUSTRY

Mr Santi highlighted three main requirements for all dive companies.

1) There must be at least one dive instructor per dive boat
2) There must be at least one tour guide per dive boat
3) Dive masters may only look after a maximum of five divers at a time

“We have also asked professional dive agents, such as PADI, CMAS and ATUS to help us check equipment. All of us, together with the Marine Police, will inspect all diving boats,” explained Mr Santi.

INSURANCE

It is now mandatory that all tour companies have insurance in place to take care of any medical expenses needed for injured or deceased tourists.

“This will include hospital bills or expenses for relatives who must fly here in the event of a death,” Mr Santi noted.

Basic group insurance is generally around one million baht for death and up to 500,000 baht for injury.

QUALITY OF SERVICE

Should a complaint about a tour company or operator be filed by a tourist, company representatives will be called upon to come in and explain the incident.

“This year we are looking to compete in quality, not price,” Mr Santi noted.

“We will be checking on tour companies who offer lower than average prices. It’s damaging to the industry when two companies are haggling with tourists and one offers a much cheaper price. Tourists will then begin to doubt people quoting them honest prices.”

Mr Santi also added that tour companies that offer severely reduced prices have a bigger chance of being fraudulent or lacking in safety. If this is the case, business licences will be suspended or revoked.


TOUR GUIDES

Of the nearly 6,700 tour guides on the island, only about 4,700 have been registered.

Tour guides are required to carry their registration card with them at all times. Failure to do so will result in a fine of up to 5,000 baht.

They will also have to adhere to dress regulations, Mr Santi said.

“Tour guides are the image of Thailand. Those who work on boats may dress casually. However, those who bring tourists to places like Wat Chalong or Promthep Cape must dress smartly,” he said.

Guides who are seen working in inappropriate attire can face up to a 10,000-baht fine.


JOB ORDERS

Each tour guide is required to carry a job order with an official stamp from the Department of Tourism and the tour company, which states where the tour will stop, names and ages of all tourists on the tour, activities they will participate in, as well as any other relevant information.

The document must be in Thai language only.

ILLEGAL TOUR GUIDES

To deal with the constant influx of illegal tour guides, those caught working illegally will now be deported and blacklisted in Thailand.

“Companies who continue to hire illegal guides will have their business licences revoked and face the highest penalty under the law,” Mr Santi said.

“Although we have many ongoing plans and projects, these are the main ones we aim to focus on in 2016. I hope that by strictly enforcing them, we can make Phuket a better tourist destination.”

— Chutharat Plerin

 

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