Pattaya maps out water safety plan

Pattaya maps out water safety plan

City wants Chinese tourists to flood back

Authorities are trying to woo back sceptical Chinese to Pattaya with renewed promises of clearly marked safe-swimming areas such as this floating boom. (Creative Commons via Wikipedia)
Authorities are trying to woo back sceptical Chinese to Pattaya with renewed promises of clearly marked safe-swimming areas such as this floating boom. (Creative Commons via Wikipedia)

CHON BURI: The Marine Department has unveiled a new plan for Pattaya to safeguard tourists who engage in water activities at this beach resort city.

The plan was ushered in after a tragic accident in July involving the tour boat Phoenix that capsized off Phuket, killing 47 visitors from China.

The incident is believed to have contributed to a significant drop in the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand.

Ekkarat Khantharo, director of the 6th Marine Region Office, Pattaya, and tourist police met Chinese embassy second secretary Zhou Guangxu on Monday to discuss safety measures during the Chinese New Year, or Golden Week, from Feb 4-10.

Pattaya officials confirmed they would ramp up public relation campaigns on tourist safety, including putting up warning signs in Chinese on tour boats.

Mr Ekkarat said the "Pattaya model" was just one of a number of strategies being rolled out to improve safety.

Under the model, zoning will be used to indicate safe boundaries for water activities, he said.

Buoys will be deployed to mark zones for swimming or water sports, and boats will be barred from entering those areas, he said by way of example.

Buoys may also be deployed to mark areas where boats must observe speed limits to ward off accidents, added.

This so-called "Pattaya Model" was first unveiled in 2013 in a Bangkok Post story headlined, "Pattaya to trial seaside safety plan".

It has undergone several iterations since, leading up to Monday's latest version.

According to Mr Ekkarat, officials will monitor boating activities, check on the condition of vessels and ensure they have the correct papers.

He said an automatic identification system must be installed on public vessels to monitor their speed. The system will also allow officers to determine boats' locations when accidents occur.

Officials said the laws governing boats for public use must be amended to improve safety, including mandating what equipment they need to keep on board and increased insurance coverage for passengers.

Mr Guangxu said about 10 million Chinese travellers visit Thailand every year and 60% travel to Pattaya.

As a number of Chinese travellers have died from drowning in the kingdom, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue of safety as sea, he said.

Mr Guangxu suggested four measures that could make Pattaya safer for Chinese.

First, relevant authorities should regularly inspect the condition of tourist boats and buses. Second, more effort must be made to take care of Chinese travellers who participate in water activities, including training sessions if necessary.

Third, auto rental operators and police must ensure those without international licences are barred from renting vehicles including scooters, he said.

Fourth, more Chinese-speaking staff should be recruited to assist Chinese travellers as most cannot speak Thai or English, according to Mr Guangxu.

He said the safety measures proposed by the Thai authorities were satisfactory and his team would relay the information to the Chinese embassy.

He said the embassy is ready to work with Thai authorities to make the country a safer place for its nationals to visit as tourists.

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