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Phuket Opinion: Going all-out on “all inclusive” tourism

The arrest of an Chinese “zero-dollar” tour company owner in Bangkok, who police say brought a large number of Chinese tourists to Phuket, earlier this week is the latest action in an ongoing effort by Thai authorities to crush low-budget Chinese tour companies operating in Thailand.

corruption, crime, economics, opinion, transport, tourism, politics, police,

The Phuket News

Sunday 3 December 2017, 09:49AM

One of the thousands of tour bus that ferry low-budget Chinese tourists around Phuket. Photo: TPN File

While in this latest case it is alleged that the tour company owner used a false identity to register his business – a clearly illegal act – the actual legality or otherwise of the so called “zero-dollar” tours remains in much murkier waters.

The vocal opponents of these tours, whose complaints led to the current “crackdown”, claim that they are of no benefit to Thailand’s tourism sector because the tourists, having paid all their costs upfront, do not spend any money in Thailand.

Worse, such tours are commonly accused of price-gouging the tourists at souvenir shops which, as the argument goes, are often owned by or aligned with the tour operator.

But when these “all inclusive” low-budget Chinese tour operators are clear with their customers about which shops they will be visiting as part of their itinerary while in Phuket, there is no misleading collusion to herd these tourists unwittingly into a particularly pricey souvenir shop.

And the issue of price-gouging is a non-starter when it comes to unessential products such as souvenirs – which according to the concept of supply and demand, are worth whatever people are willing to pay for them.

Just think of the government-mandated two-tier pricing for entry to the country’s national parks as a case in point.

So it seems clear that these “zero-dollar” tourists do spend plenty of money while in Thailand, but perhaps they are just spending it in the “wrong” places and this is what has upset their detractors.

BCIS Education Center Phuket

In any case, the whole crackdown on “zero-dollar” operators seems clouded in corruption, favouritism, unspoken motivations and making up the law as you go along.

Meanwhile, recent reports from the hotel industry say there has been a re-emergence of interest by premium international hotel groups, such as Melia and Hyatt International, in the “all inclusive” holiday pricing model.

The reason for this renewed interest is attributed to the TUI Group, a leading global tourism conglomerate, recently launching its “all inclusive” Robinson Club resort in Khao Lak.

To that, Club Med, that great originator and bastion of “luxury all-inclusive holidays”, was one of the first international hotel franchises to open a resort in Phuket some 30 years ago. For them, “all-inclusive” was okay back then and remains okay today.

The sting is that the same argument against “zero-dollar” tourists could be easily made against these “quality” all-inclusive tourists – that they don’t spend and therefore don’t boost Thailand’s tourism revenues.

But it seems highly unlikely that any opposition to these “quality” tourists will be voiced as loudly, or gain any traction with the authorities.

Time will tell.



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Kurt | 05 December 2017 - 12:13:03

Low cost tourism is a global happening. Thailand not exempted.
See the daily budget low cost flights, with thai happiness welcomed at Phuket airport.
See the low cost guesthouses on Phuket, around 50% illegal.
See the enormous low cost fake good sales in Thailand.
We all know shops and markets on Phuket were we can walk straight to known shops to buy fake sunglasses, etc.

So, what attempts ...

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ematt | 05 December 2017 - 08:44:07

To equate the Club Med model to budget Chinese tours displays a profound lack of understanding of tourism economics. Thailand is correct in attempts to limit low cost tourism as the economic benefit to the country in minimal. Rather than focusing solely on the number of tourist arrivals, Thailand (like any other tourist destination) is wise to also consider the metric of "average daily spend&...

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CaptainJack69 | 03 December 2017 - 13:39:17

Club Med is just a hotel where your food is included in the price. Other resorts might have other activities on sight but all the Karon location has is tennis courts, pitch-n-put golf, and a few trampolines.  Their customers can and do step outside and contribute to the local economy. It's a different model altogether to the people-herding done on the Chinese tours.

A lot of talk goes on th...

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Foot | 03 December 2017 - 11:55:51

While the $0 tourists don't spend much in Thailand (except 7-11s!), hotels and restaurants are paid by the tour operator.  Therefore, there is money being spent in Thailand.

It was reported last week that the largest group of Thai tourists are Chinese.  And, westerners no longer have big numbers.

I guess Thailand just doesn't really want tourists any more.  Why?

The Phuket News

Kurt | 03 December 2017 - 11:08:36

Again a fine Phuket Opinion article.

Specially the line:.."corruption ( of course), favouritisme, unspoken motivation ( very common), and making up the law ( here they are masters in handling laws rubber-wise)"...  is nice to read.

I commented earlier, there are zero usa dollar, zero Euro dollar, zero baht tours/package holidays.
That is why we have travel agents around the globe,...

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