When it launched in July, the bus route, which takes tourists from the airport to Patong for B120 one way, stopping off at various locations, was a much needed addition to the island’s dismal public transport system.
But after three months, the service isn’t doing well and there are a number of reasons for this, which we explored in last week’s front page story.
Company owner Prakob Panyawai says posters for the bus have been ripped down by taxi drivers (no doubt not impressed by the competition) and a lack of a service counter at the airport and poor signage has resulted in not many passengers. He says authorities are not doing anything to help.
Airport Director Pratuang Sornkham disputed this, saying there are already 10 signs up in four languages. However he admitted setting up a service counter inside the airport would cause problems with the taxi drivers.
Mr Pratuang raised two valid points, however. One, the bus is not suitable for those with large amounts of luggage, and two, it does not drop tourists off at their hotel door.
For example, tourists heading for Patong have to get off the bus at Banzaan Market.
If they’re staying in a hotel in wider Patong, they’ll then need a taxi and won’t want to walk with their luggage. And with Patong’s exorbitant transport rates, a taxi from the Patong bus stop to their hotel might cost almost as much as a taxi from the airport.
But these two points aside, surely there is still demand for this new service and perhaps the reason is that tourists just don’t know about it yet. Perhaps Mr Prakob simply needs to wait it out until word spreads that this service exists.
There’s another way to increase the number of people using the bus: Install a huge sign inside the airport saying “Bus to Patong, B120”.
No doubt that will attract attention from tourists who have just had 10 or more taxi drivers approach them, offering a price of B600, and perhaps as high as B1,200, to take them to Patong.
But will that ever happen? This is Phuket, after all.