The hospitality industry in Phuket is urging the government to solve the issue of foreign mafia groups getting increasingly involved in business on the resort island.
Industry executives are concerned that foreigners are exploiting laws to run their own businesses while also taking up jobs meant for local people.
Speaking during a recent meeting about tourism issues in the three Andaman provinces, Kata Group Resorts founder Pramookpisitt Achariyachai said some foreigners were breaching rules on jobs reserved for Thais.
Businesses currently run by groups of foreigners include taxi services and accommodation, with some foreigners renting villas and condo units abandoned during the Covid-19 pandemic and then renting them out again to their countrymen, said Mr Pramookpisitt. They were mostly Russians, he added.
In addition, local people in Phuket have objected to a foreign chopper riders’ group.
Mr Pramookpisitt is concerned that foreign mafia groups may take control of the island, similar to what happened in Pattaya a couple of decades ago.
He urged Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn to deal with these concerns.
Mr Phiphat told participants that authorities would look into the matter.
“I’m certain most Thais will not tolerate it if foreigners are trying to steal their jobs,” he said. “Authorities from various agencies will look into the matter as the prime minister has also ordered the Royal Thai Police to crack down on it.”
Mr Phiphat also acknowledged other issues in the three Andaman provinces — Phuket, Krabi and Phangnga — such as infrastructure shortcomings. Local residents and tourists alike complain of insufficient public transport, poor quality roads and traffic congestion, especially in Phuket.
Low occupancy rates among small-sized hotels in some popular tourism destinations are also a concern even as the tourism economy is starting to revive.
Mr Phiphat said the Andaman provinces are key tourism magnets in the South. The ministry plans to promote the three provinces as the “Andaman Triangle”.
It will push Phuket as the centre of the triangle and promote Phangnga and Krabi as low-carbon city destinations focused on eco-tourism.
In addition, the ministry will promote Khlong Thom district in Krabi as a spa destination because of the famous natural hot springs in the area.
Phuket, manwhile, is bidding to host a specialised international expo under the theme of “Future of Life: Living in Harmony, Sharing Prosperity” to promote the island as an international medical hub, he added.
The province is competing with four cities in the United States plus Serbia, Spain and Argentina to host Specialised Expo 2027/2028, with the host to be selected by the Bureau International des Expositions in June this year.