Singing Phuket’s praises
Hong Kong, 18 July 2012: Public relations outfit GHC calls Phuket Asia’s most popular holiday island declaring it was the ‘best place in the world for expats to live in’.
Tall order, but then public relations firms are paid to sing praises. In this case Royal Phuket Marina, a cash rich marina and luxury villa developer is footing the bill.
The Hong Kong based PR firm quotes a HSBC Expat Explorer opinion survey that polled over 4,000 expatriates in more than 100 countries on their favourite places to live.
Phuket and Thailand ranked high in all categories, from ease of setting up finances and work-life balance to entertainment and ease of integration with local culture. Thailand also ranked most popular among retired expatriates, the public relations firm stated.
But there is another side to Phuket reflected in the daily crime stories posted on the island’s online news services that indicate the island is losing its shine even with the most optimistic expatriate residents.
Phuket is suffering from a season of violent crimes and scams causing an unprecedented note of protest from the ambassadors of 11 European nations.
Most recently the murder of an Australian travel agent,who was visiting the island on an inspection trip, hit the headlines forcing the government to declare a war on crime.
Diplomats representing countries that send thousands of tourists to the island annually followed up on an earlier note of protest. They asked the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to provide progress reports on measures to deal with crime and scams on Phuket island that were directly related to tourism.
The island has enjoyed a 30% increase in visitors last year with 4.2 million arrivals at the international airport, but security and support services have not kept pace.
Ironically, the tourism business associations have remained uncharacteristically silent on the lack of security at tourist destinations.
The call for action has mainly come from embassies that are concerned about the safety of their citizens.
Royal Phuket Marina is just one of many companies that have hired the Hong Kong public relations firm to sing their praises, but in this instance the firm could be criticized for taking the poll data out of context.
In its latest release it claims the island is Asia’s most desirable yachting and lifestyle hub, reminiscent of “world-class marinas in Monte Carlo or St.Tropez in the South of France.
“Phuket has become an increasingly popular investment choice among expats for homes, second homes, investment properties and retirement villas.”
What it does not say is that many of the home and villa projects are built on illegally acquired land or fail to comply with the island’s already weak building codes.
To exist they have to bribe officials and that is all part of the scam and crime culture that is eroding core values on the island.
There is opposition to the uncontrolled tourism expansion on the island mainly from local communities that are seeing their way of life and assets destroyed in the name of tourism dollars.
They have opposed various mega projects such as the proposed convention centre, marinas and theme parks.
Yet Royal Phuket Marina will claim it is vital asset in moving Phuket up market and drawing luxury tourism to the island.
It was recently voted one of Asia’s top five marinas, as Phuket was voted favourite sailing venue and best regatta location in Asia in a survey of sailors at the last 2011 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, Thailand’s signature annual international yachting event.