PHUKET: An effort is under way to make Phuket the safest city in Southeast Asia following a number of incidents involving tourists.
Danai Sunantarod, deputy governor of the southern tourist province, expressed the aim at a meeting on Friday with representatives of tour and travel agencies.
Their discussion of security on the island highlighted several recent incidents that have been a cause for concern.
In May, a speedboat crashed into a channel marker in Chalong Bay, injuring 35 people, mostly Russian tourists. The boat driver was believed to have dozed off.
In February, Mr Danai said, a Chinese tourist was wounded in a knife attack by a travel agent after a disagreement over a refund for a day trip that the visitor missed. Tourists drowning in Phuket also raise questions about safety, he said.
“We have to learn from these incidents,” Mr Danai said. “We want to make our home safe for our visitors. We want to be the safest city in the region.”
He said the private and public sectors must cooperate to ensure the safety of tourists, while police officers must enforce the law.
“We will tighten safety measures because we don’t want to have scammers in Phuket,” he said, referring to the case involving the Chinese tourist.
“We also want tour operators to eliminate the dual pricing system because it makes our guests feel bad,” he said, referring to a system in which foreign visitors, including expatriates, are charged more than Thais for services. (Attractions that engage in the practice are listed on 2pricethailand.com)
Mr Danai said Phuket had become a famous destination due to its beautiful beaches, variety of food, unique culture and good hospitality. The province has received local and international recognition, including a Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy listing in 2015.
Phuket welcomed 5.6 million tourists last year, who brought in about 200 billion baht for the resort island, he said. About 60-70% of them were foreigners. More tourists will come this year to reach the province’s target of 10 million, he said.
Ratchadaporn Oin, head of the Tourism and Sports Ministry office in Phuket, said tour guides and operators have an important role to play in keeping tourists safe. They must know the rules so customers will know what can and cannot be done, she said.
For example, Ms Ratchadaporn said, guides must inform tourists not to touch marine life for pictures or feed fish while snorkelling or diving.
“We urge you to take good care of tourists to make them feel safe,” she said. “It will help boost the good image of the island.”