As its founders openly point out, with over 1.33 billion visitor movements across borders in 2017 (see story here), world-popular destinations in the past few years have found itself facing a new dilemma: overtourism – a word that resonates so well here in Phuket that even Thai authorities are recognising the dangers and leaving world-famous Maya Bay closed for one extra month for good measure.
Yet the big question, ‘What is tourism doing for local people, not just the tourists?’ screams to be answered.
It is painfully obvious in Phuket, the focus remains on serving tourists, not locals.
The PEA and PWA are blaming the storm fpr power blackouts, when every second day they are announcing electricity and water supply outages for ‘maintenance’ affecting only heavy residential areas says enough.
Onto Phuket’s traffic woes. All we have heard and seen are patchwork ‘fixes’ and the B39.4bn light-rail project being railroaded through. On that note, who exactly is that for? Certainly not tourists as it won’t be going to Patong, which is home to more than 60% of all guest rooms on the island.
Meanwhile, tourists don’t commute, tourists don’t make school runs, the two main causes of traffic on the island.
The sole focus on that front has been making sure tourists can get to and from the airport. Period. For evidence, just look at the importance given to finishing the Chalong Underpass.
Then there’s the wastewater and other pollution and the appalling state of our lifeguards. So far all that seems evident on those issues is the attitude ‘as long as not too many tourists are affected, it just doesn’t matter.’ You have to kill 47 tourists in one hit to get the attention needed to fix those problems.
Then there’s the individual financial pressures. For nigh two decades Phuket has been the most expensive province in country to live in, and there is no sign of that changing.
If any officials feel that this editorial is taking a one-sided view of the situation, perhaps they should consider the phenomenal rise in drug use on the island that even Phuket’s own police have admitted. Rising drug use is an openly recognised indicator of a population’s ‘lack of happiness’ anywhere in the world. Let’s just hope our discontented citizens aren’t just passing through too.