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Seminar identifies greatest threats to Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Seminar identifies greatest threats to Phuket | Thaiger

PHUKET TOWN: The greatest threat to Phuket’s continued success as a top tourist destination is not a lack of planning, but the fact that few plans are put into action and, when they are, there is a lack of supervision or enforcement. That was the clear message from the majority of speakers in yesterday’s seminar on “The Prospects for Land Resource Management and Tourism in Phuket” organized jointly by The Nation newspaper and the Phuket Gazette. The tone was set by Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi, in his opening address. Describing Phuket as a “gold mine” he said, “Some people dig in order, but some dig in disorder. They resist everything that the Provincial Hall tries to do.” He added, “The only way to keep Phuket in good condition is planning.” In the first session, on land resource management, Rajatin Syamananda, the recently-appointed Director-General of Thailand’s Town & Country Planning Dept, said he was surprised, when he took up his post, to discover that urban planning regulations cover only 2.7% of the total area of Thailand, and that even in that small area there is “a lack of appropriate guidance”. A master plan for Phuket is being drawn up, he said, adding, “The first thing to be done is to add more control measures. This depends on appropriate law enforcement.” Thasanee Chantadisal, Director of the Urban & Environmental Planning Division of the Office of Environmental Policy and Planning, described Phuket’s environmental protection system as “very poor”, with the problem being exacerbated by increasing numbers of visitors and immigrants from other provinces. She was particularly concerned with the damage being done to watersheds. “This is very dangerous for water resources,” she said. O. B. Wetzell, principal of development management company DMG, remarked that “the train of development that has run over Phuket has done some serious damage.” Asking, “What do the tourists come back for?” he urged Phuket to “dare to dream” about its future marketability. “We have got to get our act together. The market will pay for this progress, believe me.” Amnard Poltecha, Senior Policy & Planning Analyst with the National Economic and Social Development Board, pointed out that there is no 20-year plan for Phuket, or even any maps. Wichit Na-Ranong, principal of the local Pearl group of companies, said, “The problems we have are, first, no planning; second, planning but no implementation; and third, planning with implementation but no supervision.” He called for education of the public, new laws and strong enforcement. “We can’t depend on luck any more,” he concluded. In the second session, on the future of tourism, Auggaphol Brickshawana, Director of the Planning Department of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, identified two main weaknesses in Phuket. The first, he said, is rapid development combined with a lack of planning or ineffective enforcement, leading to destruction of the environment; while the second is a lack of efficient management of tourist attractions. James Batt, Joint Managing Director of Laguna Resorts & Hotels, was the one very optimistic voice in the seminar, though he too called for greater law and order. In particular, he said, tourists do not like being harassed by hawkers on beaches, nor are they impressed by the aggressive welcome they get from taxi touts at the airport. Methee Tanmanatragul, Managing Director of property developer and hotel consultancy W. M. & K, called for grass-roots education about tourism in all schools and for more stringent enforcement of laws and regulations. He remarked, “I don’t think the dream destination will have a much longer life if nothing is done.” Phuket Senator Paiboon Upatising said that a recent survey of tourists showed that they had three major concerns: environmental degradation, lack of road safety and being hassled by touts. But, he warned, enforcing laws would not work as long as local people do not feel they are being allowed to participate. Without participation by “stake-holders”, he said, “the more you enforce the law, the more resistance you will get.” The seminar, at the Royal Phuket City Hotel, was part of The Nation’s 30th anniversary celebrations which, in Phuket, include an exhibition of photographs from the past three decades. This opened yesterday in the same hotel, and is open to all.

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Transport

Footbridges stop luxury yacht travelling from Phuket to Samui

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Footbridges stop luxury yacht travelling from Phuket to Samui | Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand's version of the Suez Canal blockage.

Footbridges in Phuket stood in the way of a luxury yacht travelling from its home in Phuket to Koh Samui when the boat was too tall to pass. Police received a call around 8 pm last night from the truck driver after his trailer carrying the yacht had trouble getting under one of several bridges for walkers to pass over the highway. The boat was travelling down Thepkrasattri Road, where it was stopped by the bridge near Baan Tha Reua School. The boat also had trouble at the pedestrian bridge at the Provincial Electricity Authority Thalang Branch and the bridge at Baan Lipon School in Srisoonthorn.

All the bridges were supposed to have a 5-metre clearance, though one observer speculated that all the repaving of the road over the years may have raised the road and lowered the clearance. Traffic police responded to the first bridge incident by sending officers to direct traffic and make sure bikes and cars didn’t pass and impeded progress on freeing the boat. The second incident about 30 minutes later was resolved by letting air out of the truck’s tires to lower it just enough to pass under the bridge. The third snag prompted the driver to go in person to the Thalang Police station to request help yet again.

This time police were less amused and suggested the truck driver try to resolve the issue himself and call back to the police only if he was unable to free the luxury yacht. A traffic police officer went to follow up with the stranded boat at the end of his shift and found the driver had given up and decided to return the yacht to its Phuket origin at Boat Lagoon Marina in Koh Kaew. The boat, now damaged from the bridge bumps, wasn’t going to make it to Surat Thani to be sailed to Koh Samui on this journey. The boat radar had broken off on one of the bridges. No word on any major damage to the pedestrian bridges.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge

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Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge | Thaiger
PHOTO: Hotels and other tourism business are hoping the July 1st reopening goal can still be achieved.

A hotel information blog is claiming that, despite growing Covid-19 numbers, Phuket should stick to its schedule in reopening to travellers without quarantine in July. That’s only 2 and a half months away.

In an interview with the Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, they stressed that while it is crucial to rein in the spread of Covid-19 and the B117 strain now menacing Thailand, the risk must not overshadow the need to push forward with vaccinations and the march towards eliminating the quarantine by July in order to save the tourism industry and all those dependent on it.

“The Phuket pilot program is essential in creating a path towards economic recovery for Thailand, a country heavily dependent on tourism. More than 17% of Thailand’s gross domestic product is attributed to tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the worst economic free-fall in over 20 years”

The blog acknowledges the inherent risk and possible appearance of foolishness to prioritise the plans to reopen and carry on with the same rollout schedule. But they urge Thai authorities to consider that July 1 is still 2 and a half months away, leaving ample time to recover and make progress towards the approaching Phuket reopening. A vital aspect of the reopening plan lies in vaccinating over 70% of Phuket’s provincial residents, a sizable task, but one that brings great benefit with or without the scheduled reopening.

“Pushing ahead to achieve this goal puts Phuket on track to welcome back tourists, perhaps in a “bio-bubble”, and restart the economy. The economy is desperate with household debt growing, pushing the government to enact emergency decrees to provide relief. These households need the return of tourism and the influx of cash international tourists will bring.”

The blog hopes that Thai authorities can balance the necessary Covid-19 safety measures in Phuket to protect the Thai population with the economic need to bring back tourism. They believe that with sufficient measures in place, vaccinated locals could welcome vaccinated international tourists back to Phuket reopening safely in July.

SOURCE: Hotel News Resource

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

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UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand | Thaiger

UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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