Last Saturday, the body of a Chinese tourist was found washed ashore at Kata Beach. He had been swimming at Karon Beach three days earlier.
On Sunday, just days after lifeguards boosted patrols at Karon Beach, yet another tourist – this time a Russian – drowned off that same stretch of sand.
Later that night, two Dutchmen walking down a street in Patong were beaten by minivan drivers while a policeman standing by was rendered helpless by associates of the thugs. Even a warning shot fired into the air had little effect. The beating stopped only when the perpetrators decided to stop.
Then a foreigner had his throat slashed and died on the private luxury estate where he was staying.
If the authorities want to learn how fickle tourism can be, they are certainly on the right track. Drownings, beatings and murders are a fine recipe for killing off a hospitality industry.
Violent crime alone killed the industry in Jamaica, which decades ago ruled as the destination of choice in the Caribbean. For more than 20 years now, that tropical isle has been struggling to regain its status as a world-class tourist Paradise.
St Croix, with its multiple golf course murders, Ibiza, Acapulco, the Grenadines and Goa have all been through, or are currently suffering from, the same.
What seems evident is that tourists do not think in statistical terms of what actually might kill them on holiday, or even how or who would be responsible if they were to die.
They drink, drive motorbikes without helmets, swim at red-flagged beaches and even, according to Phuket’s police, commit lots of suicides. What people remember when they read or hear of these things are the key words: “Tourist”, “Phuket” and “Death”.
Noting that drownings are the fault of the tourists for ignoring red flags, which is often the case, is not good enough. Phuket will need to up its game in lowering the body count.
Noting that so many murder victims were criminals themselves – again, often the case – only begs the question: “Why are so many people like that attracted to Phuket?” Or, “How do they keep getting into Thailand?”
And, of course, police reports of death after death of foreigners by “suicide” cannot help but prompt the question: “Why so much of this in Paradise?”
Public image and reputation are built largely on current trends and facts, no matter how inconvenient. ‘Visit Thailand’ road shows cannot succeed where ‘Danger’ is the overriding perception in the target market.
And blaming the media for reporting violence carries with it the ugly assumption that, were it not for such reports, the market could be fooled.
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