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Phuket’s War on Drugs: Why has Bebe gone?

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket’s War on Drugs: Why has Bebe gone? | The Thaiger

PHUKET: It is sad that Phuket’s two specially-trained drug dogs have been suspended from “active duty” for lack of dedicated handlers, especially given the time invested in their training and the phenomenal results displayed by the beagle Bebe during her first day on the job last July.

[See page 6, this week’s issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here to download the full newspaper.]

Despite a steady stream of highly-publicized drug arrests and seizures over the past year, there can be little doubt that our island is still awash in illegal narcotics, especially ya bah (methamphetamine) and its crystallized version ya ice (crystal methamphetamine).

Statistics released by Phuket Provincial Police show that drug-related arrests accounted for 3,385 crime cases recorded in Phuket in fiscal 2011, more than half (54.1%) of all crime cases in the province during that period. This was a 6.2% increase year-on-year in the number of drug cases, which was almost five times the number of cases in the second most popular crime category: gambling.

With figures like these, it comes as little surprise that drug convicts make up about 75% of the inmates at Phuket Prison.

The ease with which these drugs are obtained was highlighted yet again recently when six young teenage students were found to have skipped school and broken into a derelict disco, where they smoked meth for two consecutive days. How 13-year-olds can come up with the money to pay for these expensive drugs is anyone’s guess, but the fact that it happened puts the role – or lack thereof – of parents at the forefront.

Despite such worrying trends, suppression efforts by both police and provincial drug units have largely remained static in terms of approach. Where “innovation” has been called into play in terms of improving detection capability, the results have bordered on the comical. As anyone who follows the local news is aware, mountains of ya bah pills have been smuggled onto the island over the years aboard tour buses running the Bangkok-Phuket route.

Yet, rather than training dogs to check the baggage holds of buses and suspicious vehicles crossing onto the island at Tah Chat Chai, the authorities a few years back opted to invest millions of baht to buy Alpha 6 “molecular resonance” detectors, even after the “technology” they were based upon had already been completely discredited abroad.

Thus it was an exciting breakthrough when Muang District Chief Supachai Pochanakul’s beagle Bebe sniffed out stashes of both yah ba and yah ice just five minutes into her first assignment last July. Unfortunately, she and her handler have now parted ways and what looked to be a very promising career is now on hold – indefinitely.

It is time for the police themselves get into the drug-dog training business, rather than leaving it as the ‘pet project’ of one well-intended civil servant. Meanwhile, it is to be hoped most fervently that Bebe is not gone because she proved too effective on the job.



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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Phuket

Phuket’s tourist evolution – Diversity is the best option Part 2

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s tourist evolution – Diversity is the best option Part 2 | The Thaiger

by Guest Writer

Our guest writer has been managing resorts around Phuket for two decades and has represented his brand at international expos along with promotions for Phuket over the years. His knowledge is first-hand and steeped in local experience. He has asked to remain anonymous.

Read Part 1 of the report HERE.

In Part 1 of the article we looked at the changes and evolution of Phuket’s tourist mix, the rise of the Russian market, then the Chinese and now the drop of both. So what can we do to continue to lure the Chinese travellers?

We need to learn about the Chinese market and guest’s expectations in order to be able to develop products, services and welcome them. You will see many hotels sending their sales teams regularly to China to the main line cities plus secondary cities to entice new business and to regain the confidence in our Phuket hotel products. In our case, when sales teams come back, they are expected to debrief the operation teams on Chinese guest expectations and the feedback from partners on how we can improve the service and products in place for our Chinese visitors. How many business do any research about their customers and what they actually want?

Here are some figures covering January to May in 2018 vs 2019 for the same period, about visitors to our resorts:

• Chinese guests, dropped 26.17%, year on year to date

• Russian guests, increased 22.99% year on year to date (this was a case of several tour operators consolidating their hotels to reduce inventory)

• South African guests, up 4.48% year on year to date.

• Australia and New Zealand combined, down 33.14% year on year to date (Phuket competes head to head with Bali and South American islands.  Price is the key to any packaging as guests tend to look at great value packages, and the money saved is then on hand to use once they arrive at the destination!).

The Thai Baht has had an effect on the ‘value for money’ traditionally associated with traveling to Thailand too. The Chinese Yuan end of June 2018 was holding at around 5.06 Baht per 1 Yuan, but today it is 4.46 Baht per 1 Yuan.

The Australian Dollar was nearing 24.75 Baht per 1 Dollar a year ago, but today is hovering at 21.30 Baht per 1 Dollar which has had a dramatic affect on the famous ‘deals’ which Australian travellers are so accustomed to and hotels rely on during the green season.

As the Indian market is now seen as a possible ‘mainstream’ market heading towards Thailand, hoteliers are being approached more and more to see if we are ready to welcome Indian guests. Traditionally heading to the more lively resorts, families are going to play an important part in future arrivals from the sub-continent too. 

Once again, expect to see a change in beach choice for families as the market opens up and recent improved air links with several major cities in India and Phuket shows that the future is promising for this market. Once again, a market we need to learn about and do our homework on guest expectations whilst holidaying here.

We have seen much ‘price dumping’ recently in the market place. By doing this, if a 5* property starts doing this, the situation ‘dominoes down’ the line to 4*, 3* and so on.  According to several partners both in China and Bangkok, this year has seen aggressive price dumping but as the overall demand is not there this is going to have a severe affect on future negotiations as it will be difficult to get prices up again in the future.

One way which many of us are coping with this is ‘value adding’ – by maintaining room rates but offering some inclusions or ‘give aways’ within the rate instead makes a product more attractive to customers. Rate averages after these inclusions (depending on how a hotel calculates them and allocates the charges) will reduce and this year we have already seen 2.67% lower average room rate ‘year to date’ compared to last year.

Packaging is also becoming a bigger norm with hotels offering set packages for several nights stay with some inclusions.  This we have tried in several markets and the response has been good. 7 night stays with a few additional meals, cocktails, prepacked laundry before going home, for example. Hoteliers’ costing teams are working harder than ever before to make sure that such packages produce returns whilst offering  guests excellent value for money!

As one of the most established Vice Presidents of Sales and Marketing mentioned a few months ago, traditional 2 year ahead contracts with tour operators is becoming less and less important as the market changes so rapidly these days. We need to work day by day or month by month to react to market demands more than ever before to ensure that we remain competitive, nimble and flexible.

As we enter the second half of 2019, sales team meetings are looking more and more at new emerging markets; at balancing the books by nationality with new channels of distribution both online and traditional holiday companies in more countries to ensure that resorts don’t rely on just a handful of nationalities as, after all, we really never know when some of our largest tourist-feeding nations decide to change their travelling habits.

As it becomes easier and cheaper to travel by air, and the number of countries, who are welcoming visitors and becoming openly competitive with Thailand, increases never forget that every visitor has a great choice of countries to visit.

We need to continually review our products and services to ensure that we are aimed at the correct markets, guest mix (families, couples, younger, older, etc) and today’s trends in travel.

Therefore we ALL need to ensure that we are top of our game and welcome guests with true Thai smiles and make sure that we provide a safe environment with excellent service plus offering superb value for money.

Finally we should never forget to show the true traditions of Thailand that have attracted visitors to the Land of Smiles for centuries.

Phuket’s tourist evolution – Diversity is the best option Part 2 | News by The Thaiger

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Phang Nga

Progress on Phang Nga’s new international airport

Bill Barnett

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Progress on Phang Nga’s new international airport | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett, c9hotelworks

The AoT (Airports of Thailand) planned international airport in Phang Nga, set to be part of a triangle of international airports serving the Phuket, Phang Nga, Khao Lak and Krabi tourist zones, is poised to move past another development milestone.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the second gateway Greater Phuket airport project is being put forward to the government with a budgeted cost of 75 billion baht.

Once approved, final land appropriation is expected to take 12 months and construction another 48 months, so the earliest opening would be 2024/2025.

New of the project continues to drive land transactions, and push up costs, at an increasing pace in the nearby Phang Nga areas of Ko Pilai, Kok Kloy and Natai which are located close to the airport’s proposed site.

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Phuket

Phuket in the Top Ten list of Best Places to Visit

The Thaiger

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Phuket in the Top Ten list of Best Places to Visit | The Thaiger

Paris topped the US News list of the World’s Best Places to Visit, Phuket gets into the top 10 destinations this year. The annual rankings list the World’s Best Places to Visit, along with region-specific and niche lists.

Paris, a long favourite with its world-renowned attractions, excellent cuisine and charming atmosphere, scored the top spot in the Best Place to Visit in the World listing. New Zealand’s South Island was in second place, Rome was third, Tahiti fourth and London in fifth place.

Thailand’s most popular island, Phuket, was the highest placed Asian destination and scored the eighth place in the Top Ten destinations, beating out Grand Canyon, New York, Sydney and Maldives.

US News also compiles the Best Places to Visit in the USA, the Best Historical Cities to Visit in the USA, the Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA, the Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific and the Best Places to Visit in Asia. Unique to US News, the rankings combine editor, traveller and expert feedback to determine the most remarkable destinations around the world.

  1. Paris, France
  2. South Island, New Zealand
  3. Rome, Italy
  4. Tahiti, French Polynesia
  5. London, UK
  6. Maui, Hawaii
  7. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  8. Phuket, Thailand
  9. Grand Canyon, US
  10. Yosemite, US
  11. Barcelona, Spain
  12. New York City
, US
  13. Dubai
, UAE
  14. Machu Picchu, Peru
  15. Sydney
, Australia
  16. Maldives
  17. Amsterdam
, The Netherlands
  18. San Francisco
, US
  19. Florence, Italy
  20. Yellowstone
, US

SOURCE: ttrweekly.com

Phuket in the Top Ten list of Best Places to Visit | News by The Thaiger

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