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Phuket Opinion: The road ahead

PHUKET: Phuket is now on the verge of November. The winds are starting to change, now predominantly coming from the northeast, marking the end of a rainy season that has caused so much pain.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 30 October 2022, 09:00AM

Motorbikes continue up Patong Hill after more earth gave way at the site on Friday night (Oct 28). Photo: Phuket Info Center

Motorbikes continue up Patong Hill after more earth gave way at the site on Friday night (Oct 28). Photo: Phuket Info Center

The coming months will be our first chance to glimpse what tourism recovery we can truly expect. Since the COVID entry measures were dropped entirely on Oct 1 the number of international arrivals at Phuket airport has jumped by just under 1,000 each day, on average.

No one expected tourists to return to visit the island in droves, and the floods this month dampened any hope of a boost in domestic tourists. Yet it is what Phuket is offering, and at what prices, that will attract tourists, and determine our immediate future. This applies for both domestic and international tourism.

Phuket is no longer an unspoilt tropical paradise. People no longer come here to “get away from it all”. They come here for a break or simply for the novelty that they have never visited here before. That’s it.

For these types of tourists there are expectations of what their stay will be like. Their expected quality of stay reaches beyond the hotel or resort. The overall impression and experience across the island is the key factor in determining how long they will stay, or even whether they will return. This includes the dining, the beaches, the shopping, the overall cleanliness of the place, how they are treated, the transport, and yes, even the roads.

What Phuket is currently offering in these respects leaves much room for improvement. While many of these factors are for the local people to provide, the general state of the island is the government’s responsibility. In this, and especially in the management of transport infrastructure, the state has failed.

Key tourism figures for years warned the Thai government that you cannot keep taking the money generated by a tourism island such as Phuket without investing back into the island’s infrastructure. The consequences as recently as March this year were branded “inevitable”. With the collapse of the road over Patong Hill, officials are now staring down the barrel of what those warnings meant.

Blue Tree Phuket

Of note, Phuket officials, including the current Phuket Governor, have been left to stand in front of the cameras as ‘point men’ as they scramble to come up with solutions to providing safe road access to Patong. By no coincidence, Bangkok officials who have overseen the appropriation of tourism income generated by Phuket for decades have been nowhere to be seen. Most people are pretty sure they will turn up when the road finally reopens.

With no statements from anyone from the central government, who are usually willing to jump in and take the glory for any support provided, there is no indication of what pressure local officials are under to have the road over Patong Hill reopened as quickly as possible.

To this, the announcement yesterday that immediate roadworks now underway will see the road reopen to cars within 45-60 days is not inspiring. That timeline is possible only if more space is created by scraping away more at the hillside to make room for lanes away from the danger zone.

It also leaves very little time for properly shoring up the embankment that has already collapsed in a way that inspires confidence that the road will not collapse again.

Apparently this type of gambling is legal in Thailand. And with this, officials are hoping to inspire confidence among tourists to use the road to travel over hill once it reopens. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

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Timothy | 31 October 2022 - 12:00:04

Vegas, there are more likely thinking about getting twice the money for the tunnel, with a large portion of the budget skimmed off the top. Thus leaving an insufficient amount to do the job properly, so corners will be cut... That's the Thai way. 

Fascinated | 31 October 2022 - 10:50:51

Caution- armchair engineers at work!

vegasbaby | 30 October 2022 - 20:49:47

Officials think doing nothing is a path to getting the tunnel for half price as the road way hillside erodes away.

cheez | 30 October 2022 - 14:52:26

Ending on first comment 'good road safety policy'.  Apologies for the exclusions.

cheez | 30 October 2022 - 14:47:41

Correction:  ... 'as informed by TPN on 18/9/2022' .....

cheez | 30 October 2022 - 14:44:09

My final comment:  The Phuket officials have been putting Descartes before the horse.

cheez | 30 October 2022 - 14:42:10

I'm looking at this photo of the ever-expanding collapse of the road at Patong Hill.  Holy Moly!  Please don't tell me that this is part of the Phuket Road Safety Plan as informed by TPN on 18/2022 to "prevent unnecessary accidents, injury and loss of life".  Why have road safety education for people when Phuket officials themselves clearly require education on good road safety p...

christysweet | 30 October 2022 - 14:01:00

Just to the lower right of   center in that pic is what looks like an large runoff culvert- I'd say that was a factor and was  no doubt placed to facilitate the road. Chop  down trees  and pave   the hill just is not  feasible  in this location. Why not step back from cars ruling the world? 

Capt B | 30 October 2022 - 13:40:17

A lot of West Coast business,s will soon be broke & empty. Almost time for the parasites to cash in. The Patong Death Hill strikes again 

christysweet | 30 October 2022 - 12:05:59

Phuket,  secede ! A new island nation is born. Who's with me? Bribe the right people, and  who knows? 

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 12:01:05

----When High Phuket Officials not show up with their photographers at possible future disaster locations, to point, stare, comment, the signs should go on 'red allert'.

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 11:57:04

How do feel Phuket Officialdom, with Governors in top of the tree, now with all 3 crippled roads to polluted cash cow Patong?
With arrogance ignoring 2 years the Kata Hill Rd collapse. Governor ever had a look there the last 12 months how repairs doing now are not strength convincing? It looks more cosmetic than future construction stability guarantee. When high Officials not show up with their p

Prab | 30 October 2022 - 10:55:46

the "point man" failed miserably in this and that why they let him stand alone.. who was suppose to make sure the island infrastructure where maintained? and why 2 year and kata road not repaired yet? .. total fiasco by the island governor and his crooks friends.. now seems they try to pass the ball to the central government to save their ass?

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 10:53:00

So, which Phuket Official signed for ''motorbike passage safe and approved" on Patong Hill Rd. There must be a Phuket official scape goat to blame when outer motorbike lane collapse, going down with some bikers. Right?

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 10:05:53

There is no quarantee that not more supporting sand below the road deck is sliding away. The up-hill driving motorbikes almost drive 'in the air' only. Did the installed warning wiring stuff warned in time last Friday when more supporting road deck sand was sliding down? Is the Kathu village chief who inspected/supervised that installation, now daily inspecting the unsafe road?

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 09:44:17

..... Well, Patong Hil Rd will not become in 2 months time what is was. Perhaps never, as the geologic situation is stressed in such a way that it needs miracles of technics to make that. And that knowledge is simply not available. For the sake of workers souls who go to risk their lives at that location, professional merit doing Governor better start doing daily merit doing.

Kurt | 30 October 2022 - 09:38:13

PN hit the nail on the head with this Sunday 'Opinion'. Look at the photo, it is gambling with your live to pass there, even by motorbike. Danger from above, sandy sloop withour rooted green, and from below, as ther is lesser and lesser sand supporting the left over road deck than there driving people can see. And for what was that outsticking large piece of pipe serving? Well, Patong Hill...

JohnC | 30 October 2022 - 09:26:26

Isn't all gambling illegal in Thailand (except government sponsored lotteries of course which apparently are okay because they add cash to their coffers). Gambling with people's lives is NOT acceptable. I wouldn't risk my life riding over that hill in that condition.


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