PHUKET: To the surprise and disappointment of many local residents, the Phuket Gazette’s Internet poll for the week ended December 18 suggests that large numbers of people familiar with the island believe the local sex industry does help to attract tourists. Of the 789 participants in the poll, 54.8 percent were of the belief that the availability of ‘paid sex’ is a positive factor in building visitor numbers. 30 percent said the industry has no effect on tourism, and 15.2 percent felt that it repels potential visitors. Responding to the question, “Do you think the local sex industry helps attract tourists to Phuket?” more than half (56 percent) of the foreigners living here felt paid sex is a selling point, while only ten percent perceived the industry as a repellent. A majority (55 percent) of the 523 tourists who participated in the poll agreed that the presence of commercial sex draws vacationers. 27 percent said it had no effect, with the remaining 18 percent feeling that it turns off the market. Most Thai nationals felt that the flesh trade either has no effect on Phuket’s appeal to tourists or that it is damaging to the growth of the market. Issues raised in the Gazette Poll change at noon every Friday. This week’s question is: “How would you rate the quality of banking services in Thailand?” The poll appears on both the Phuket Residents’ Page (www.phket.loxinfo.co.th/~gazette) and on the Phuket Gazette Online at www.phuketgazette.net.