We usually don’t doubt the sincerity of Governors, nor of the other officials who publicly make such statements – after all, isn’t ensuring tourists’ safety is critical to Phuket’s image as an idyllic care-free playground for sun-seeking travellers. However, as earnest as these top officials are, we are left to ponder how exactly these words trickle down into practical safety improvements for tourist activities.
This writer hosted visitors over the holiday period, and it being their first visit they were excited as countless tourists are, to take a tour to the famous Phi Phi Island. Upon their return, they said the visit was, well, okay… even after realising they had joined the thousand or more tourists who also visited that day. However, a slightly less enjoyable part of the trip was having to endure the “scariest thing we have ever experienced”.
Returning to pier, they explained, “The boat flew in at top speed. We nearly hit another boat. We were terrified! But the boat crew were thoroughly enjoying themselves.”
As if to demonstrate the disconnect between official rhetoric and reality, this incident occurred not long after officials announced “ramping up high season marine safety”.
A Japanese woman was recently killed by a boat propeller while scuba diving. Tragically, following correct safety protocol would have saved her life.
Several tourists were also severely injured in recent motorbike accidents and you can bet your bottom dollar that the majority of them didn’t have a valid motorbike licence.
Phuket officials will surely keep mouthing feel-good notions about the priority of tourists’ safety, but such rhetoric will do little to change the attitudes and practices of the tourism operators, who are on the front line when it comes to keeping the tourists under their care safe.
Sadly, it appears that money trumps safety for many cavalier operators. Platitudes will never match a rigorous safety training and licensing scheme backed by the tough enforcement of penalties for breaching safety protocols.
Officials, please take note.