The call for “back to basics” tourism came at a seminar at the Prince of Songkla University Phuket campus on Thursday (June 25), held to discuss and present a “white paper” on strategies to restart the island’s economy.
At the meeting, the Governor was told that the pandemic had already cost Phuket B160 billion in lost revenues.
Experts at the seminar pointed out that Phuket was not expected to have any more than 5 million tourists in total this whole year, with 1.5mn of those being Thais.
However, according to a report of the seminar, the Governor was also urged to help develop the island’s economy to be not so dependent on tourism alone as an estimated “80-90%” of the island’s income derived from tourism.
“When we have a problem with tourism activities due to the incidents such as the outbreak of COVID-19, the economy is greatly affected,” the report said.
Developing other sectors through public-private projects would help stimulate the economy and help the island cope with other situations that may occur in the future, the report added.
The “white paper” noted that industries that should be developed in parallel with tourism included the marina industry, education industry, health and wellness industry, tuna export industry, local food industry, and sports and events.
“These industries have both opportunities and obstacles,” the report said.
However, the white paper indicated that proper development of the alternative industries, in collaboration with the private sector, could help to contribute up to B350bn a year to the island’s economy.
“The income generated can also be distributed to local communities and create job opportunities in the area,” the report added.
Governor Narong, who arrived on the island to take up the post as Governor only last Friday (June 19), welcomed the suggestions.
“I am happy to hear all comments that lead to problem-solving and the development of Phuket, with the government, private sector and the people all working together,” he said.
“I will act as a leader and a supporter, as Phuket is now going through a most difficult situation,” he added.
Governor Narong also visited the Phuket Social Security Office on Friday, though it was not reported what he was informed of there.
Social Security Office (SSO) Secretary-General Todsapol Krittawongwiman was in Phuket in person a month ago (May 27) to support the work of social security officials on the island.
“I came to inspect the working and management of the Phuket office, as I was informed that around 100,000 people registered to receive relief funds as they have been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19,” Mr Todsapol said.
“Every day, around 1,000 people come to the office to register. One thousand people per day is the highest number in Thailand,” he added.
However, Mr Todsapol also said that 80% of the 100,000 or so people on the island who had registered to receive COVID-relief support payments from the SSO had already received those payments.
That was not the case a week earlier when workers from Patong’s nightlife industry, left out of work and without any income to support themselves, staged a protest in front of the Social Security Office in Kathu.
Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Pungdet earlier this month asked for social security payments for unemployed to be extended for further three months as the money provided by the government was already running out, leaving people left jobless without any form of income.
That was on June 10. Weerawit Kreuasombat, President of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA), confirmed on Tuesday (June 23) that no officials had contacted him about the extra social security support for former entertainment industry workers left without any income.