Following the death of Australian 70 year old businessman, Roger Hussey, in July and the subsequent investigation and promises for a ‘crackdown’ on the local parasailing industry, things appear to have settled back to ‘normal’. Again. We have nothing against good people doing business in their own country. Most of the people involved seemed quite pleasant. We’re just reporting what we witnessed.
In a one hour period on a typical Saturday afternoon – not particularly busy on Patong Beach – we watched the parasail vendors ply their trade almost directly in front of Bangla Road.
Over the hour from 5.15 to 6.15pm 26 people went up on a ride, that’s nearly one every two minutes. There was a 30 second turn around between one customer landing, being unclipped and the next ‘passenger’ being clipped in and being dragged off into the sky for their two minute journey.
The entire system, run by five assistants, a few salespeople drifting around the beach with a multi-language flash card to drum up business and two in the speed boat, pocketed approximately 31,200 (based on their rate of 1,200 baht for a ‘QUICK’ ride and 1,500 baht for a longer ride). We presumed the two minute ride was the ‘quick’ ride. If they did this for an entire day, say, starting at 10am, then they had the potential of making nearly 250,000 baht per day. PER DAY!!!! Of course they’re unlikely to do this roaring trade all day, every day. But they appeared to have no end of willing customers queuing up to fly over Phuket’s busiest and least-clean beach.
Very efficient, and lucrative we figure. An income of twice the average monthly Thai wage, in an hour! They would need to pay fuel costs for the boat, maintenance on the boats, storage fees, presumably some ‘thankyous’ for being able to operate on a public beach in the first-place and wages to the assistants.
A few things leapt out at me whilst watching.
Firstly the ‘jockey’ who takes to the skies with the paying passenger has absolutely no attachment to the parachute at all. They go along for the ride for seemingly no reason. They don’t assist with the landing – the ground assistants are there to catch and recover. They may do some sort of steering in the latter moments of the landing process but, really, the speed of the boat and the wind are in almost total control of the parasail’s flightpath.
Secondly, the ground assistants can be a bit aggressive with people that walk through their ‘domain’ – the area needed for the take-offs, landings and tow rope (which is about 50 metres long). They were shooing tourists away to keep them away from getting hit by landing parachutes and the tow rope. They didn’t appear to have had a lot of customer service training in regard to their handling of the tourists, whose only crime was walking along a public beach.
Finally, and most controversially, how in earth do these businesses operate on Phuket’s public beaches when ALL the other beach ‘commerce’ was swept off the beaches with great fanfare post the 2014 coup and the crackdown on the sunbed and umbrella vendors? It could be argued that they’re providing a service but just one beach had eight operators taking up large sections of a public beach for the purpose of making money, lots of money.
If there was any paperwork, receipts, contracts or insurance, we didn’t see it. Would be happy to be informed if the operators have all the required paperwork in place – for their sake and that of their customers.
The same could be said for the jetski operators but we’ll save their story for another day.
A lot was said and promised at the time of the Australian’s death (after falling out of his harness into the shallows of Karon Beach) – a code of conduct, stricter safety regulations, inspections, paperwork. We saw little evidence of any of this and would like to ask officials and Phuket’s Governor “what are you doing to protect paying passengers from this happening again”? And “how can these unsupervised adventure activities get permission to operate on a public beach when all the other commercial activities have been banned?”
We have sent these questions off to the various officials and will report their answers when we receive a response.
- Tanutam Thawan