Phuket tourism operators have asked the government to extend the operating hours of entertainment venues for at least three months to monitor the outcome, allocating enough personnel to ensure tourism safety.
The operators want to keep entertainment venues open until late at night, as Phuket welcomes many visitors who come for the nightlife, said Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.
Allowing these venues to close at 2am or 4am will increase tourism revenue by about 30% and blunt the impact of illegal clubs that operate until the early morning hours, he said.
However, safety regulations are important to prevent any unwanted incidents during the later hours, said Mr Thaneth.
The government should pilot the extension on Bangla Road by first closing at 4am before deciding on an appropriate time, he said. This could help authorities estimate how much security personnel and transport are needed to accommodate tourists in the area, said Mr Thaneth.
Authorities should also consider increasing CCTV cameras along the street, or using technology that detects tourists, he said.
Many operators said they are ready to co-invest in technology to support safety measures, Mr Thaneth said.
Issues such as quarrels, illegal drugs, drunk driving and mafia taxis should be regulated through stricter law enforcement to assure minimal consequences from the extended hours, he said.
The regulation should assign clear zoning for entertainment venues so nightlife businesses do not disturb the nearby community, said Mr Thaneth.
Even if new zoning is established outside the city, tourist demand would follow these nightlife venues, he said.
Most nightlife venues on Bangla Road have reopened, but income still lags 2019 levels, partly because the number of foreign arrivals has yet to fully recover, said Mr Thaneth.
Foreign arrivals to Phuket are expected to tally 7-8 million this year, less than the 10 million recorded in 2019, he said.
After the Phuket Expo facilities were changed from an international convention centre to a quarantine centre, according to Public Health Ministry plans earlier this month, Mr Thaneth said this plan did not make sense for the tourism province.
He said the old plan to build a convention centre that can attract large events would bring more benefits in the long run.
Mr Thaneth said all hotels, city halls and the convention centre could be converted into temporary quarantine areas whenever a health emergency occurs.
He said tourism operators already voiced their opposition to their MPs and the provincial Joint Public and Private Sector Consultative Committee.
If there is no update from the Public Health Ministry, tourism operators will submit a letter to call for a policy revision, said Mr Thaneth.