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Tuk-tuks, jet-skis top complaints by Aussie tourists in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha yesterday received more bad news about the state of Phuket’s tourism industry as the Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok told him that complaints about tuk-tuk drivers and jet-ski scams topped the embassy’s list of complaints filed by Aussie tourists in Phuket.

“I personally haven’t heard any complaints, but I do read people commenting on websites… There are a lot of different comments about tricky jet-skis and tuk-tuk fares,” said Deputy Head of Mission Simon Farbenbloom.

“Some people complain and others say that it is just the way things are and everyone knows this. You have to be careful,” he added.

Mr Farbenbloom said he placed good faith in the Australian honorary consul in Phuket, Larry Cunningham, to help resolve the issues.

“He has good ideas on how to solve the issues that come out,” Mr Farbenbloom said.

The news delivered to Governor Tri at the meeting yesterday followed the quarterly meeting of Phuket’s honorary consuls and local officials on Wednesday.

That meeting saw some of the strongest comments yet by Phuket consuls about the need to address tuk-tuk drivers’ conduct.

German honorary consul Dirk Naumann voiced his concerns about German national Kurt Trotnow being rendered comatose after an attack allegedly by tuk-tuk drivers over the refusal to pay a 200-baht fare.

Also at the meeting, Dutch Honorary Consul Seven Smulders said that while the British, Australian and German consuls were normally the most vocal participants, their views were backed by other consuls.

He said two young Dutchman were similarly beaten by Patong tuk-tuk drivers recently over a what, he said, was a “minor issue”.

While acknowledging that the vast majority of tourists enjoy incident-free holidays in Phuket, he went on to raise the issue of a new “motorbike scam” being reported.

In this newest way to cheat tourists, unscrupulous operators rent out motorbikes to foreign tourists and then arrange for companions to steal them overnight, he said.

The foreigners are then forced to pay the price of a brand-new motorbike, even if the stolen vehicle was old, he added.

The Phuket Gazette notes that foreigners have little leverage to negotiate in such cases as they are typically asked to leave their passports as a form of surety until they return the vehicle. This issue was raised at previous consul meetings but largely remains unaddressed.

However, Mr Farbenbloom yesterday said the complaints haven’t stopped Australians visiting Phuket in large numbers.

“More than 700,000 Australian tourists have come to Thailand this year, and more than half, about 420,000, have come to Phuket,” he said.

Mr Farbenbloom expects an influx of Aussie tourists to arrive in January.

“January is when many Australians take a long holiday so more people will come for sure,” he said.

Mr Farbenbloom is in Phuket on a two-day visit.

He and other embassy officials will visit the Srinagarindra the Princess Mother School Phuket in Saphan Hin, Phuket Town, to participate in a water and waste management campaign coordinated by the Planet Savers organization and the Australia-Thailand Institute.

This afternoon the embassy entourage will attend the formal opening of the Phuket Lifeguard Education Center at Nai Harn Beach.

Tonight, Mr Farbenbloom will attend the “Hucky Eichelmann and Anthony Garcia Guitar Thailand Tour 2011”, at Phuket Rajabhat University, starting at 7pm.

Mr Farbenbloom will fly back to Bangkok on Saturday.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

 

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