Governor Narong explained the policy to Gen Singsuek Singprai, chairman of the ‘Senate Committee on Monitoring, Suggesting and Accelerating Reforms and the Formation and Implementation of the National Strategy’, during an online meeting at the new Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday (Jan 27).
Joining Governor Narong were Phuket Vice Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan and a host of heads of local government agencies as well as business figures and community leaders.
Governor Narong pointed out the impact COVID-19 and the tourism shutdown has had specifically on Phuket.
“Phuket Province has been continuously affected,” he said.
“In Phuket, which generates 95% of its income from tourism and about 2% of its income from agriculture, the pandemic has caused people in the area to experience acute poverty,” Governor Narong said plainly.
“Research by academics at Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, has shown that during the COVID situation the average income of people in Phuket has fallen to only B1,900 baht per month per person, or about B30,000 per person per year. Phuket people have suffered a lot,” he said.
“Phuket Province has therefore formulated a solution to the problem of economic driving New Phuket / Post Covid in the form of GEMMMSST,” Governor Narong noted.
GEMMMSST comprises focus on developing economic drivers in the fields of Gastronomy, Education, Medical and Wellness, Marine Tourism, MICE meetings and events, Sports & Events, Smart City and a Tuna Hub, he explained.
According to a report of the meeting by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket), no concrete details of projects moving towards any of the established goals were explained, other than the bid for Phuket to host the Specialized World Expo in 2028.
Cabinet earlier this month has approved a budget of B4.18 billion for Phuket to host the “EXPO 2028 - Phuket, Thailand”.
Saran Charoensuwan, Ambassador of Thailand to France, and Worawut Somwangprasert, Minister of Commercial Affairs at the Thai Embassy in Paris, submitted the official bid to Dimitri Kerkentzes, Secretary-General of Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), on Jan 11.
The bid explained that Phuket aims to host the expo under the theme “Future of Life: Living in Harmony, Sharing Prosperity”.
“It will be a good opportunity to present our potential in public health travel, being the center of Medical Hub as well as being the identity of Phuket,” Mr Saran said.
If successful, Phuket hosting the World Specialized Expo 2028 has the potential to change the face of the island’s tourism industry, says Rangsiman Kingkaew, Vice President of Strategic Tourism at the Phuket Tourist Association.
The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), estimates that the income generated from hosting the expo will be at least B40 billion and create jobs for about 100,000 people.
Thailand is competing against several countries for the rights to host its own Specialized Expo. The United States of America last July submitted its bid to host a Specialised Expo in the State of Minnesota in 2027. After Thailand submitted its bid, Argentina, Spain and Serbia all submitted their own bids to host a Specialised Expo in 2027.
Bids close at 5pm CET in Paris today (Jan 28).
Of note, tourism itself was not mentioned at the meeting, according to the PR Phuket report, though Phuket hosting the World Specialized Expo still represents a form of tourism.
Tourism arrivals to Phuket continue to dwindle, with the mainstay being arrivals under the Phuket Sandbox scheme while the Test & Go scheme remains suspended until Tuesday (Feb 1)
The Phuket Daily Reopening Report issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) marked just 1,427 arrivals for Wednesday (Jan 26).
“However, Phuket Province emphasizes on working together with all sectors to bring results to the development of Phuket in the same direction,” Governor Narong told Gen Singsuek and the Senate standing committee.
The GEMMMSST strategy has been touted by Phuket officials for years, but has come under regular criticism for its lack of cohesiveness and effectiveness, with no real push to develop the sectors.
However, Matthew Barclay, Australian Consul-General in Phuket, has voiced his support for the policy, saying many opportunities were open to investors, but hinting that the bureaucratic hurdles may have prevented genuine deep interest from investors.
Speaking at an event observing the economic crisis in Phuket last October, Mr Barclay pointed out that many Australian business people stood to benefit from the official Phuket economic strategy GEMMMSST.
“Many Australian interests could easily successfully engage in developing those industries to broaden Phuket’s economic base,” he said.
“Phuket is coming out of the far side of a pandemic. Realising that having 85% of your economy geared towards tourism is not a viable long-term plan, considering this will not be the last global shock that we will go through,” Mr Barclay added.
“The economy in Phuket last year shrunk by 83%. A lot of you were for the tsunami; of course the human cost was horrific, but the economic cost was a contraction of 15% of the economy.
“Recovering from the pandemic will take years. I think there will be a lot of risk aversion. But I think that if Australian business can play into those sectors, I think we could be set for success,” he said.