PHUKET: Efforts by the international diplomatic community to pressure authorities in Bangkok to tackle the festering crime in the Phuket public transport sector and improve Phuket’s reputation as a tourist destination are laudable and have the full support of the Phuket Gazette
No subject has been the topic of more futile editorializing in this space than Phuket’s bizarre patchwork of self-serving fiefdoms that collectively pass for a “public transport system”, one which curses us with not only the highest fares in the Kingdom, but also the lowest quality of service.
The abysmal state of affairs has done inestimable damage to the island’s reputation and served as the single greatest impediment to an industry which, in most other regards, thrives under free market forces – offering excellent value for money.
The recent unprecedented visit to Phuket and Krabi of not one, but three ambassadors from important tourist source markets (story here
) shows once again that the issue cannot and will not go away until the systemic collusion in the transport sector is tackled by authorities. Until it is, tuk-tuk, taxi, and passenger van syndicates will continue to hold hostage an entire industry that depends on them: resorts, tourist attractions, food outlets – the list goes on.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Gazette
would like to point out once again that real public transport, of the kind available in every other of Thailand’s 78 provinces, including Bangkok, is the key.
We applaud the brave move of the company that has stepped up (story here
) to defy the well-entrenched syndicates in Patong and Kata-Karon.
This company, which has yet to publicly release its name, deserves the full support of agencies such as the Tourist Police, who should step in and make it a safe reality - even if it means having officers on board the buses and of course at Phuket International Airport.
Much has been said and written about plans by some East Asian conglomerates to build a world-class light-rail system, (story here
), but while such a network would undoubtedly benefit local residents, it's primary beneficiaries would be the millions of tourists arriving annually at the airport. They deserve an option to get to their hotel or guesthouse quickly and safely, and at a price far, far below the long prevailing private-sector taxi rates which often exceed the nightly price of their room.
At a more fundamental level, what is needed is a paradigm shift that restores public transport in Phuket to the tradition of Thai hospitality that is still much alive in the Kingdom. If tourists fail to find it in Phuket, they will of course go elsewhere for their next holiday. And it goes without saying that there are abundant alternatives in that regard.