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Phuket Opinion: The necessity of want

Phuket Opinion: The necessity of want

PHUKET: The message from respected architect Bill Bensley at the Thailand Tourism Forum this week, known simply by its moniker TTF 2020, was plain: Thailand’s tourism industry stands on the brink of disaster if it continues along its destructive path of unsustainable growth and can only be saved if it learns from nature.

opinion
By The Phuket News

Sunday 26 January 2020, 09:00AM


Bill Bensley delivered his warning to leading figures in Thailand's tourism industry earlier this week. Photo: TTF2020

Bill Bensley delivered his warning to leading figures in Thailand's tourism industry earlier this week. Photo: TTF2020

To understand that warning, delivered to an estimated 1,000 travel industry delegates at the forum in Bangkok (see story here), one needs to appreciate who Bill Bensley is. It is no overestimation that Bill Bensley is a respected – nay, renowned – designer and architect who has worked on some of the most impressive hotels and resorts in Asia, including some in Phuket.

He knows the state of Thailand’s tourism industry, and he knows the state of play among Thailand’s tourism competitors in Asia, as he has worked in the region for decades. If he can see disaster coming, it would pay well to heed the warning.

What is dumbfounding is that there is not an all-out “environmentally conscious” branding war among hotels and resorts, and tour operators, right now in Phuket. Touting that a project is more environmentally friendly because it uses more energy efficient lighting and solar panels is a start, but no projects are promoting themselves above their counterparts with slogans the likes of “We plant mangroves” or “We don’t poison our beach water!" For the competitive advantage that can be gained from such campaigns, it beggars belief that no one is taking that line.

However, what must be recognised is that the more ethical choice tends to cost more, and that cost is always passed down to the customer in one way or another. Thailand has made itself dependent on the mass market of cheaper-spending tourists, and they spend their money where they can get value.

If these “cheaper tourists” could afford the more ethical choice in venues to stay and the tours they take, they would. Penny pinching would not enter the equation.

tile-it - Phuket’s Quality Tile Boutique

Yet unless there is a conscious decision to make travel to Thailand at least somewhat elitist, these are the tourists that need targetting. While such people want to travel to Thailand, some business people will cater directly to their wants, ignoring the ethical choice to increase profits. That is the nature of the beast.

This is the reality that Thailand is facing, and the survival of Thailand’s tourism industry hinges upon it. Unless there is some magical mass epiphany among local “entrepreneurs” and business people, and the tourists themselves, proactive action must be taken.

Everyone bleats the need to enforce the law in Thailand, and we’re not deceiving ourselves about that prospect happening overnight. What has worked elsewhere in the world are cash-back and tax incentives, not just growing a green conscience.

Give a greedy person the chance to make money while making the ethical choice, and he will take every time. That you can count on.

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Island Man | 29 January 2020 - 10:53:30

Sorry, but it's beyond the tipping point already. Phuket should have put a halt to hotel/resort building long ago and restricted the number of tourists per year to help preserve her beauty. That would have required a vision of the future which is seldom considered when it comes to making money.  Mr. Bensley, along with other Thai and foreign developers, are part of the problem not the solution...

Timothy | 27 January 2020 - 09:06:47

Vegas, most hotels aren't even connected to a sewage plant. There is not enough water, incinerator capacity and the roads here are already clogged with traffic. Yet everywhere you look there are huge new developments under construction. TAT's new slogan should be 'come see beautiful Phuket before we ruin it completely'.

vegasbaby | 26 January 2020 - 19:53:50

A good start would be not to build more hotels and guesthouses than the sewage plants can digest.

Sir Burr | 26 January 2020 - 16:44:31

Russians, Chinese and Indians, the main nationalities that now come to Phuket don't care about "eco-friendly". They care about price only. This guy is twenty-five years too late to make a difference. 

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