Phuket “badly needs a plan’

PHUKET CITY: Phuket desperately needs a long-term development strategy following the tsunami, a Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC) seminar entitled “Phuket Alert” was told yesterday.

The PCC is considering development issues facing the province and will make recommendations within two months so that they can be included in a development plan for Phuket now being drafted by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). The seminar, intended as a “brainstorming session”, was attended by tourism industry representatives, academics and government officials.

PCC President Eam Thavornwongwongse, who led the discussion at The Metropole Hotel, noted that the lack of an integrated development strategy long pre-dated the tsunami disaster.

He likened land in Phuket to slices of a pie for which there has been no distribution control – with investors interested only in maximizing profits from the slices they happened to control, without looking at the bigger picture.

“The end result is that Phuket has developed in a haphazard fashion, with illegal development clearly visible all around the island and especially along beaches,” he said, adding that the culprits were both Thai and foreign.

“Second, there hasn’t been enough assistance from public utilities in [restoring] telephone service, electrical and water supply after the tsunami. Third, we have to ask ourselves if our elected officials … are really working to the the full extent of their abilities and are using their budgets in a way that best benefits the province,” he added.

“Finally, we are still going to have to wait three or four years before the NESDB development plan takes effect. Can we really accept all of these things?,” he asked rhetorically.

K. Eam said that restoring Phuket’s tourism economy to normal levels by the next high season was essential, otherwise a variety of social ills – including crime – could result from having 35,000 hotel rooms unfilled and 40,000 hotel workers unemployed or underemployed.

He suggested organizing “roadshows” abroad as one way to address the downturn in tourism arrivals.

Phuket News
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