Thai tourism needs work

Thai tourism needs work

While the government is trying to boost domestic tourism to replace the loss of revenue from foreign visitors due to the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, such efforts have been affected by a poor quality of services on offer to tourists.

Long-standing problems of tourism services, particularly in prime tourism destinations, need to be solved for the sake of the sustainable development of the tourism industry.

Cheating and scams are among the key problems that damage the country's tourism image, not only among foreign tourists but also local visitors.

The latest case emerged in Phuket when a local traveller posted a complaint on social media, saying she was ripped off by a taxi driver who charged her 200 baht for one kilometre of travel.

She asked if that it is a normal rate for taxi travel around the resort island, as she thought she was in a taxi in a foreign country. Her post has gone viral, drawing many people to share their similar experiences while travelling in Phuket.

The issue prompted Phuket governor and provincial officials to respond. Governor Narong Woonciew ordered a probe into the case and instructed the provincial transport office to make sure local taxis follow the official rate which sets the taxi fare at 50 baht for the first two kilometres, 12 baht for the second to the 15th kilometre, and 10 baht for the 15th kilometre and beyond.

The fare also increases by one baht per minute when taxis move at speeds not exceeding 6km per hour. Another 50 baht is charged for booking taxis via a call centre and 100 baht for passengers picking up taxis at a designated area at the airport. The question is how many operators abide by the regulation.

This is not the first time that cases of passengers being ripped off while travelling on public transport have made the news in Phuket. In July of last year, two Australian tourists filed complaints at Karon station that a passenger van driver charged them 3,000 baht to take them from Phuket airport to a hotel about 50km away.

Unfair taxi charges are not the only things that plague Phuket, as tourist scams and mafia activity are also a chronic and unsolved problem. Local business operators and some authorities have focused on amassing income by taking advantage of tourists.

It's not only Phuket as various other popular tourism destinations have the same problem in different degrees.

Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the government expects only eight million foreign tourists -- or one-fifth of last year's 40 million visitors -- to return in 2021. The government expresses the hope that revenue from boosting domestic tourism will help offset the loss of revenue expected from the drop in foreign arrivals. Revenue from foreign tourists accounted for about 12% of GDP in 2019.

The finance minister seems upbeat about the government's measures to boost domestic tourism and local consumption, predicting that revenue from local tourism will reach 6% of GDP next year. But the government's ambitious plan to boost domestic tourism is affected by the bad services of selfish operators.

The adage of "locking the stable door after the horse has bolted" applies here, as no one can remove a tarnished image or the unsavoury experiences of tourists. During this time that the country lacks foreign tourists, the government should turn the crisis into an opportunity to reform regulations, quality and standards of tourism service operators. It is a necessary means towards ensuring sustainable tourism in the country.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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