Lt Col Charoen explained that his focus was on tour operators illegally controlled by foreigners.
“From our inspections [yesterday], we did not find any businesses owned by foreigners, but we have to investigate further with relevant officials’ information. We did find some suspicious irregularities and believe that there may be some businesses run by nominees. The DSI will return to investigate these further,” Lt Col Charoen said.
Also joining the inspections was Athiphong Sengsin, Chief of the Tourism Business and Guide Division, Southern Region 2, under the Department of Tourism.
“With Phuket entering its tourism high season, more tourists are coming and the relevant agencies have joined together to conduct checks on tour operators and the use of guides,” he said.
“Using [qualified, registered] tour guides provides a standard of safety for tourists," Mr Athiphong added.
“And we need to prevent the use of illegal tours, and prevent the use of illegal guides, in order for tourists to maintain a good impression of Thailand and to make our tourism sustainable,” he said.
The inspections were being carried out to boost tourists’ confidence to boarding a boat in Phuket over the tourism high season, explained Phuket Marine Chief Wiwat Chitchertwong.
During the inspections, the officials confirmed that boats at the pier, which serves as a major jump-off point for tourists boarding day tours out to the nearby islands, were carrying the required safety equipment, passengers were wearing life jackets, the number of passengers on each boat did not exceed the boat’s registered capacity, and that the captain and the boats were fully licenced and registered.
Mr Wiwat highlighted that the Asia Marina pier was a key port for passengers coming from or going to Phi Phi Island.
On average some 3,000 to 4,000 people per day pass through the main ports in Phuket, namely Chalong Pier, Tha Ruea, Ao Por and Rassada Pier, Mr Wiwat said.
Random inspections were used to ensure boats, crews and tour operators all complied with marine safety requirements, he said.
Maj Ekachai Siri of the Phuket Tourist Police, who also joined the inspections, pointed out that Tourist Police Commander Lt Gen Chettha Komolwatthana had stressed the importance of safety and security in Phuket during the tourism season.
He also pointed out that an estimated 80% of tourists visiting the island board a boat at some time during their holiday.