The government is rightfully alarmed at the drop in tourists, with figures for October down 14.89 per cent on last year and 11.77 per cent down from August 2018. The junta, however, is not attacking the root causes of the plunge.
In July, a boat laden with Chinese tourists sank in Phuket, drowning 47 people. We have the deadliest roads in the world, killing more tourists (and Thais). Our two-hour immigration lines are legendary. This year, Airports of Thailand forecasts 51 million arrivals at Suvarnabhumi, well above its capacity of 45 million. No wonder foreigners think twice before coming here.
The government’s efforts to attract more tourists by increasing budget-carrier flights or reducing visa-on-arrival fees are just quick fixes that will increase overcrowding.
I don’t understand why the AOT cannot solve long immigration lines. Years ago, it took me several days to renew my passport at the Passport Office at Bang Na, versus only 12 minutes last year: the difference was that the whole process has been outsourced, with one immigration officer in overall charge. We need to apply the same kind of creativity to solve AOT’s problems.
Our government must cease its “mai bpen rai” attitude towards safety. Recently, a bus full of tourists was caught on video overtaking on a blind curve at a high speed, terrifying passengers and making national news. The cops fined the driver a mere Bt5,000. There was no jail sentence, and no penalty for his employer. He should have been jailed and had his licence suspended for six months – and his employers put on notice that a second offence by any of their drivers would result in suspension of the firm’s licence for several months.
Let’s make Thailand a more attractive, safer place for our foreign guests – and ourselves.