Spike in tourist deaths sparks ministry concern
The Tourism and Sports Ministry is working to address the issue of tourist safety after a 54% jump in the number of foreign tourists who lost their lives in Thailand last year.
A report by the Bureau of Prevention and Assistance in Tourist Fraud revealed that 83 foreign tourists died in Thailand last year, up 54% from the previous year. Another 166 were injured, down 160% from the previous year. The figures were compiled from reports from the ministry's 10 offices nationwide.
Of the 83 deaths, 34 were from road accidents, nine from swimming and boating accidents, six from congenital disease, four from suicides and 30 from other causes.
The report named several risky swimming areas for tourists, including Tawan Beach on Pattaya's Koh Larn (Chon Buri) and Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui (Surat Thani). Mu Koh Similan (Phangnga) and Koh Hae (Phuket) were noted as risky areas for scuba diving.
Dangerous roads for tourists included highway 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai district in Mae Hong Son, highway 118 from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, highways 2258 and 2296 to Khao Khor (Phetchabun) and highway 4233 to Karon mountain (Phuket).
Putting the numbers in focus. In 2015, visitors to Thailand had about
- one chance in 301,204 of dying
- one chance in 735,294 of dying in a vehicle crash
- one chance in 2,8 million of dying while swimming or boating,
- One tourist in every 6,250,000 committed suicide
Although Thailand's tourist industry has been growing, with the number of tourist arrivals reaching almost 30 million visitors last year, tourist safety is still a major concern.
According to the World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2015, Thailand ranked 35th globally and 10th in Asia-Pacific.
For safety and security, Thailand came in 132nd place out of 141 countries and was the lowest in Asean with a score of 3.75.
The issue came to the forefront last Friday when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed his concern after Russian tourists were seriously injured in a speedboat accident near Koh Phi Phi. Gen Prayut's remarks prompted authorities overseeing tourist safety to seek out a solution.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to address the issue with the Commerce Ministry, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Public Health Ministry, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Airports of Thailand and the Tourist Police Division.
Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary at the Sports and Tourism Ministry, accepted that Thailand needs to upgrade its safety and security standards for tourists as soon as possible.
"In the past, we did not deal with the root causes of the tourist safety problem. From now on, we will look at the issue and address it seriously," he said. He hoped to see the country's ranking in safety and security move up to the middle tier of Asean countries.
The study on water accidents will be done in Krabi while data on road accidents will be gathered in Chiang Mai. Governors of the two provinces will chair the research committee with the reports expected to be completed within three months.