Dim view of Sun ranking

BANGKOK, 2 April 2018: Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, Weerasak Kowsurat, reaffirmed Thailand was a safe destination for young travellers.

He dismissed a UK Sun Newspaper report, published last week, that claimed Thailand was the most dangerous destination in Southeast Asia for young travellers (under 40) saying the assertions were false, sensational news without a basis in facts.

Weerasak said in a statement, released by the ministry over the weekend, that data showed there were six deaths per 100,000 British tourists visiting Thailand last year.

Tourist arrivals from the UK were slightly more than 1 million.

“Today we are all news consumers even addicts for news, but we have a duty to think about the facts to see what is true or false,” he said, noting the Sun Newspaper was sensationalising the news.

Based on official statistics, 265 tourists died in Thailand due to unnatural causes during 2017, of which seven were from the UK.

This should be seen in the context of the overall 1,004,345 visits by UK tourists, he noted.

He claimed that most of the deaths of UK tourists were suicides, health related or caused by road accidents.

But due to its growing popularity Thailand attracted 35.38 million visitors last year, which has resulted in an alarming increase in road accidents mostly linked to the hire of motor cycles.

The minister did not specifically identify the problem with motorcycle hire, but a check of hospitals on Samui and Phuket islands and at Pattaya indicates there has been a substantial increase in serous accidents involving foreign tourists hiring motorcycles.

By law, tourists must have a valid driving licence to rent a motorcycle, but it is often ignored.  This results in the riders losing their holiday insurance cover in the event of an accident.

Also, foreign insurance firms are excluding motorcycles from a policy’s cover.  This leaves the foreign tourist totally unprotected and liable for the cost of damage to the motorcycle and all medical costs when there is an accident.

Motorcycle hire shops say the only solution is to make it compulsory for insurance firms to offer daily insurance similar to what car rental firms offer.

However, they should also tighten up their hire procedures and refuse a rental if the driver does not have a valid licence. Critics say the majority of tourists are riding motorcycles without having the appropriate licence.

But the minister focused his comments on how the foreign media, excluding the Sun, generally praises Thailand. He quoted USnews.com that ranked the country “best in the world in 2018 out of 80 countries.”

He noted that Thailand was the fourth best in the world for adventure tourism and 9th best for solo travel, a ranking that measured safety, convenience, friendship, fun and value for money.

Food is never far from the mind as far as Thailand’s tourism is concerned so Weerasak also praised CNN for naming Thai food one of the world’s best with “Massaman Curry” the king of all foods, followed Tom Yum Kung ranked 8th and Som Tam in 40th place.

“We should be proud and bring positive things to everyone’s attention. These are the selling points. I want the media and the people of Thailand to promote and present a positive image, to be good hosts and welcome tourists as our guests.”