The news confirming the procurement of the first 100 buses to be introduced to island traffic by August 15 was announced at a celebratory event held at the Hilton Arcadia Phuket Resort and Spa in Karon on Saturday (July 23).
Presiding over the event, which was titled “Muang Naa Yuu Thong Thiaw Plod Pai” or “Livable Town, Safe Tourism”, was Phuket Governor Chamroen Thippayapongthada, who was joined by Ms Zhang Pei Dong, a commerce official from China, and representatives from the Land Transport Department, Andaman Tourism Business Association and the Bestlin Group, a Bangkok-based company specializing in the import of tour busses from China.
Officials and businessmen smiled for the cameras before revealing some details about the deal to select members of the media in attendence.
Governor Chamroen explained that the event was staged in collaboration with reps from the public and private sectors to help boost confidence in Phuket’s tourism safety image following a string of accidents on the island, many of which involved Chinese tourists.
Ms Zhang Pei Dong went on to reveal that last year more than 8 million tourists from China visited Thailand, half of which came to Phuket, adding that in the first six months of this year, the number of inbound tourists from China was up by 20 per cent from last year.
Therefore, she thought that it was a “good thing that Phuket province valued looking after tourists by increasing the quality and standards of safety”.
Speaking on behalf of the bus division of the Andaman Tourism Business Association, Mr Wichai Siemsawn revealed some details about the procurement through Bestlin Group Co Ltd, which he said will initially provide 100 of 300 new buses on a six-year finance plan.
Though declining to provide the exact value of the procurement, Mr Wichai said that tourism operators who will receive and use the busses will not be required to make a down payment or pay any installments, which he said will be covered by the tourism retail outlets requiring the transport of the (Chinese) tourists.
“There are about 1,000 tour buses in use in Phuket right now, 300 of which belong to the [Andaman Tourism Business] Association. But especially during festive periods, there aren’t enough buses and we need to bring in buses from other provinces to meet the demand.
“Sometimes, these buses are old and the drivers aren’t familiar with the local roads, which results in accidents often,” he said.
“So this is why we organized this event to procure an additional 300 buses. In the first phase, we’ll get 100 buses, which will be ready for use by August 15,” he added.
Mr Wichai did not provide details about the other 200 buses.
The introduction of the first 100 new buses should be just in time for the expected completion of the Sam Kong underpass.
Meanwhile, Phuket traffic congestion continues to worsen due to constant roadworks, the influx of mass tourism and the increased number of private vehicles added to traffic at the same time that public transport remains unreliable and inadequate.