The call comes amid budget cuts for the lifeguards, which have been slashed by 10%, down to B19.8 million per year for the next three years – starting this year. The lifeguards, despite losing a growing number of volunteers who take higher paying jobs in order to support their families, went ahead with providing their critical service and make do with whatever budget they have.
But lost in the history of all this is how Phuket’s lifeguards are actually funded – through a 1% tax on all room rates charged on the island – a tax introduced by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or “OrBorJor”) way back in 2000.
Yet much of this 1% is not collected, simply because many hotels refuse to pay. It’s not only the “illegal” hotels, many legitimate hotel operators openly refuse to pay it too, over concerns about the lack of transparency and the fact that hotels subject to the tax have no say in how it is spent.
Fast forward to present day, and as of Dec 2016 the Tourism Ministry estimates that Phuket has a total of 81,727 licensed and non-licensed hotel rooms, taking their best guess at the number of illegal hotels and private rentals.
Right now Phuket is waiting on Bangkok to act, especially after International Surf Lifesaving Association President Henry Reyes made his direct appeal to PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this year. On that note, kudos to Deputy Prime Minister Thanasak Patimapragorn for stepping in to support the Phuket Lifeguard Service.
Even the most measly projections show that the PPAO, through the room rate tax, has the funds to support our lifeguards; they are just choosing not to do so. For that they should be ﬂamed.
But that doesn’t let hotels oﬀ the hook either. None of these reasons are an excuse for any Phuket hotels to not pony up – or at least stepping up – to save the lives of their very own “guests”. Paying the room rate tax removes any excuse the PPAO might dream up for not doing its part.
Hotels should start paying this tax or start helping to protect swimmers at our beaches, or they should be publicly shamed for not doing so.