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Phuket rental operator takes stand against undesirable tourists

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Arnut Lowlarng, 39, is a native of Patong and the new President of the Patong Bike and Car Rent Association. He has a vocational certificate in construction from Phuket Technical College and has been renting vehicles in Patong for more than 22 years.

Here, he talks about what kind of tourists he’d like to see in Phuket and the issues faced by rental operators.

PHUKET: It’s easy to see that the tourists who come to Phuket nowadays have a lot less buying power than those who came 15 years ago. I’d say 10 times less.

Budget airlines, hotels, apartments and so forth have made travel affordable for a lot more people. I have nothing against tourists who are not rich, but I have a big problem with those who are cheaters and who don’t respect the property they rent from me.

Making Thailand more affordable has increased the number of undesirable tourists that we get. For example, customers in my friend’s restaurant ordered 6,000 baht of food and ran away without paying for it. A guy who rented a motorcycle from me got drunk and burned rubber on my bike – you know, accelerating while you hold the brakes, to make a lot of noise and smoke. He even made a video clip of himself doing it! That’s not good for my bike, and if it’s damaged, it costs me time and money to get it repaired.

If you ask me what we want most from the government, it would be more customers and also higher quality customers. That means no criminals too. Immigration and embassies should conduct careful criminal checks on people coming to Thailand.

Our country’s selling point is a good environment and culture, but people who come here to commit crimes destroy our image. Just one example is ATM skimmer gangs (story here).

But it’s not just tourists that should be good quality. Rental operators have to do their part to provide good and reliable business, we know that. We’ve gotten a lot of flak recently because we keep tourists’ passports when we rent out vehicles to them (story here).

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the tourist always has a choice. They can leave a deposit equal to the value of the bike, or they can leave their passports. That deposit amounts to about 35,000 baht for the average bike, so it’s not surprising that they prefer to leave their passports.

We understand the responsibility of holding passports and we take great care to return them to their rightful owners.

We made a mistake once, and though it cost us a lot of money, we did what we had to to correct it. We had given the wrong passport to a customer who left Phuket and went to Pattaya. Then the real owner of the passport came in, and told us he had a flight leaving the next day. One of our staff flew to Pattaya to bring the passport back in time for our customer.

We are participating in the LINE app program, and send passport photos of everyone who rents from us to the police. I think it’s a good idea, but I’m not sure about long-term benefits; we only started two months ago (story here).

I heard that some people blame us when tourists who rent vehicles have accidents. We tell our customers to wear helmets and advise them about road safety. In the future, I’d like to give renters a more complete picture of traffic laws.

We do check licenses and most of all, make sure our renters can drive. One time I rented a car to someone, then cancelled the rental as the guy was driving away because I could see he didn’t know what he was doing.

The bottom line is, we don’t want our renters to have accidents. We don’t want them to get hurt, of course, and we don’t want to lose money because our property is damaged and can’t be rented out. The thing I want most from my customers is respect for my property. We are providing them with a service – a vehicle to use, not a toy to have fun with. Please don’t damage it.

— Saran Mitrarat

 

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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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