Newly-appointed Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan has mapped out a security, resources and logistics plan for the famous resort-island, aiming to make it a safe destination for international tourists and replace the negative reputation it has in some quarters with a more positive image.
Chockchai said he planned to kick off at least five major projects on the island: developing a taxi-boat service, tightening up security, sourcing more clean water, producing more energy, and flood-prevention measures.
The previous provincial governor had already endorsed a number of action plans to tackle and reduce prolonged problems, including cracking down on illegal business operations at beaches, remanagement of public taxis and transportation, and confronting local mafia gangs.
“I was appointed to oversee the province just a month ago, and I have done my homework to see what I can add [to my predecessor’s plans] in order to improve Phuket into an even better destination,” he said.
Under Chockchai’s framework, a new taxi-boat service is an urgent requirement to deal with traffic chaos on many of the island’s roads. The project would link the province’s main entry point, Phuket Airport, with major tourist areas such as Patong and Surin beaches, as well with the neighbouring provinces of Krabi and Phang-Nga.
“This project is expected to help reduce travel time by land, which suffers from the problem of heavy traffic. Bali in Indonesia has successfully introduced a similar idea,” he added.
The second idea entails the installation of analytic closed-circuit TV cameras at the land entry point of Sarasin Bridge, which is the only road gateway linking the province with the mainland.
This measure will enhance safety and security, as the cameras can scan drivers’ faces as they cross the bridge, the governor said.
Meanwhile, Phuket needs to increase its water supply, as it is experiencing a shortage, especially during the high season, he said, adding that around one half of the island’s water is supplied from Phang-Nga province.
Chockchai said Phuket also needed to produce more energy in order to serve high-season demand, as well as peak periods like New Year and other celebrations, as the island now nearly uses all of its electricity-generation capacity of 450 megawatts.
“I want to see an increased energy volume that is able to supply the whole island over the next 10 years, so that there is no risk of an energy shortage,” he explained.
The governor is also alert to the problem of flooding on parts of the island, an issue that has been around for years and which affects tourism sentiment.
In order to solve the problem, he will seek an additional budget from the central government to build drain ducts at major tourist spots, including the Patong area.
“Each year, Phuket generates income of Bt700 billion into the economy, making it the second-highest provincial contributor, after Bangkok. This is why we need to have more development on the island,” the governor said.
Asked how the number of illegal businesses, especially non-registered hotels, could be reduced, he said all non-registered hotels would have two months to declare themselves, get permission and be licensed – otherwise they would face legal action.
The provincial authorities have reported that only 424 hotels have licences, while 1,366 do not.
“More tourists from around the globe are visiting Phuket, so it should have better facilities,” he stressed.
Anthony Lark, general manager of the Trisara Phuket and president of the Phuket Hotels Association, said its 51 members – which have a total of 9,000 rooms and around 10,000 staff – had created plans to push Phuket as a truly world-class destination by promoting its strengths of being a great island and offering the warm touch of Thai hospitality, and not only beaches, bars and jet skis.
“Thailand is a great place to visit and also the best place to do hotel business, due to its unique hospitality,” he added.
Lark said that while many foreign media outlets had reported on the island’s negative reputation, the association and government bodies were trying to build a positive image in order to lure more quality tourists, as Phuket now offered many high-end products, such as medical services, yachting, luxury hotels, cruises, sport, and facilities for private jets.