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Phuket tourism boss says lack of infrastructure an existential threat

PHOTO: Phuket light rail travelling through Phuket Town

The president of the Phuket Tourist Association has slammed the slow pace of infrastructure development on the island, describing it as a threat to tourism. Much needed infrastructure projects, to help relieve the daily traffic grind and monsoonal flooding, have not eventuated as the island’s residents continues to suffer.

Thanet Tantipiriyakij says that despite several visits from the PM in recent months (three), little is happening. He points out that large projects, such as the Patong Tunnel, a new motorway, a second main road, and a public light rail or tram system, have all failed to make progress.

Worse than that, not a hole has been dug on any of the long-considered (and promised) projects, some reaching back more than 2 decades.

Meanwhile the island continues to bid for, and lose, many international events and conferences as its bad reputation for basic services continues to spread.

Thaneth warns that the longer such projects are delayed, the more they will cost in terms of land acquisition. In the meantime, crucial roads like Thepkasatri Road in the north, Chao Fah West and the main road from Chalong to Rawai, continue to feel the pain of zero progress.

“Public infrastructure for tourists, such as airports and roads, are their first impression of a place. Ensuring convenient travel is crucial for long-term competitiveness.”

Thanet says the island is unable to cope with severe flooding such as that seen at the weekend and that the government has failed to allocate sufficient budget to infrastructure and improved public facilities. He points out that 60% of the island’s tourists are first-time visitors and they may not return if things don’t improve.

Much of the sudden villa and condo developments, especially over the past 2 years, have not had matching public works to cope with re-routing flood waters, resulting in sever flooding in some of the new residential areas and developments.

The extremely heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding last weekend caused several flights to be diverted, and flooded the island’s main thoroughfare, Thepkrasattri Road. In Kamala, many cars and motorbikes were destroyed and several homes washed away in the floods.

However, the Bangkok Post reports that there were no reports of cancelled hotel bookings or stranded tourists, as most were staying near the island’s beaches in areas, mostly, unaffected by flooding (with Kamala a notable exeption).

Thanet has also voiced his concern over new laws that could increase the maximum height of new property developments on Phuket to over 140 metres above sea level. The PTA president says this could end up cutting off even more natural drainage systems, causing severe landslides during heavy rain.

He adds that the annual budget of 170 million baht allocated to the province doesn’t take into account the large number of residents, including locals, expats, and tourists, particularly when compared to other tourism destinations such as Bangkok and Pattaya, which are allocated budgets of over a billion baht.

Thanet points out that Phuket’s water management and drainage systems alone require a budget of at least 1 billion baht.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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