PHUKET: Tourism operators remain concern about the safety of tourists as the popular resort island expects an influx of holidaymakers from China during the Chinese New Year holiday.
Surapong Yangcharoenkul, president of the Thai-Chinese Phuket Tourism Association, on Thursday expressed concerns about safety measures for tourists and called on authorities to be more vigilant and to strictly check public bus and boat drivers.
He made the call during a meeting to prepare for the arrivals of tourists from China during Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 10 this year. The association has observed an increasing number of accidents involving Chinese visitors on buses, boats and even rented motorcycles.
Mr Surapong suggested that law enforcement authorities should regularly conduct urine tests on boat and bus drivers to ensure the safety of passengers.
Phuket is one of the favourite destinations for Chinese travellers, and more are expected to head overseas during Lunar New Year.
Tourism confidence in Thailand plunged when a Chinese tourist was killed and another injured in the Siam Paragon shooting by a 14-year-old boy on Oct 3 last year. China also questioned safety measures for its citizens when the Phoenix boat capsized in a stormy sea off Phuket, resulting in the death of 47 Chinese tourists in 2018.
"Tourists from China are vital for Phuket. Everyone has a duty to provide safety for visitors," Mr Surapong said.
Phuket expects the number of travellers from China during the forthcoming travel season to match the figures of the pre-Covid-19 period at around 500,000, according to the forecast of immigration authorities in the southern province. About 300,000 visitors from China visited Thailand in the first three weeks of January, topping all international arrivals, according to figures of the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Thailand targets 35 million foreign visitors this year, with 8 million of them from China. The country estimated 28 million tourists last year.
Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said on that Thursday Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had directed officials to facilitate tourists, including faster processes at all airports and points of entry and more stringent safety measures during Lunar New Year.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin welcomes the first group of visa-exempt visitors from China at Suvarnabhumi airport, Samut Prakan, in September 2023. (Photo: Government House)