How trustworthy are government websites?

PHUKET, 21 May 2020: One of the island’s leading tour operators, Charn Wongsatayanont, made good use of his stay-home time checking out Phuket’s information websites. It was an eyeopener.

He raised his concerns on Facebook with the comment: “When I finished watching Chinese TV series, I got locked down with the task of sourcing travel information linked to Phuket. I tried to search for travel information on official government tourism agencies… I discovered that the information was not updated and was inconsistent.”

Charn a veteran travel executive who heads a highly successful land tour provider, Phuket Jet tours, puts his finger on the pulse. In a rush to embrace social media, government organisations linked to travel rarely update their websites.

In his Facebook post, he noted that the Phuket website most recent content was eight years old.

A website on Phuket Statistics featured its latest economic statistics dated four years earlier.

The Ministry of tourism and sports website failed to display any current data on tourism in the province.

Visitors to the site would have to make do with just the number of tourists, total income and expenses of tourists dated 2017.

The website of the National Economic and Social Development Board refers to products, sectors in Phuket provincial and other southern provinces with information two years old.

In addition, Charn’s searches of tourism-related sites showed discrepancies between figures presented by the Ministry of Tourism and the NESDB. The two government agencies are not reading from the same hymn sheet.

Different information confuses travellers and the trade, says Charn who called for more accurate and useful information that is of value and linked to travel. He concluded his website checks noting they offered little statistical details of value and lacked relevance for serious travellers researching trips.

“After Covid 19, please update the information and tell the travel industry how to access the data and information. That would be great a new normal,” Charn posted.

At TTR Weekly, our checks of travel websites came to the same conclusion. Content is poor, out of date and lacks application for travel company executives keen to improve their business.

But the lack of updates goes beyond government agencies such as the Ministry of Tourism to include private-sector corporations that fail to make timely updates to their websites. Major hotels groups with news to tell have photos of buffet lunch spreads of the distant past and photo opportunities of bygone meetings.

Today, the virtual world is now the new normal for travel communications and company websites are the shop front and should welcome visitors with valuable content and current news.  They should also have a friendly face, an email contact with a name that welcomes communications and feedback, not the info@ monikers; the forgotten email boxes rarely checked.

Phuket Jet Tour’s managing director experienced what thousands of would-be travellers to Thailand encounter every day as they research their next holiday. They visit outdated websites that lack valuable, practical information. Bells and whistles they have in plenty, but rarely do shop-front websites present the answers to the questions that travellers raise when planning a trip.