The announcement came from Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong, who was reported to be clarifying the gathering of hotel operators in Patong last week to express their plight as their businesses were closed and their assets were auctioned off, said the NNT report, posted on Saturday (July 16).
Vice Governor Pichet stated that currently, 860 small hotels are permitted to open legally in Phuket, while 994 hotels were found to have violated regulations and must be rectified.
He did not clarify exactly how many hotels were actually currently open and receiving guests.
Some of the hotels were discovered to be built in prohibited areas such as national parks, SorPorKor agricultural land or designated zones in ministerial city planning regulations, the report said.
“According to reports, 53% of the businesses violated building control laws, with the violation commonly related to environmental issues,” the report added.
Meanwhile, around 6% of the hotels were found in breach of hotel and city planning regulations which disqualified them from getting state welfare and loans for their businesses.
Only 91 of the 994 small hotels had fixed “their problems”, while the remaining 903 hotels that hadn’t are struggling and are in need of government assistance, said the report.
According to Vice Governor Pichet, provincial officials have approached the Interior Ministry’s Land Department for assistance because some residents had purchased condo units with the intention of converting them into hotels.
However, the law requires that the building first be cleared of any condo or housing estate registrations before it can be converted into a hotel. The request must be approved by all members of the housing estate.
In an effort to increase hotel rooms and customers, Vice Governor Pichet also mentioned a law revision that would require a minimum of 10 hotel rooms and 30 customers as a requirement for hotel registration.
Vice Governor Pichet added that authorities understand the plight of these people but the process of revising certain laws to help will take time, said the report.
“The Department of Provincial Administration, which oversees the implementation of hotel laws, is working to help these people, as well as businesses that are facing similar problems in other provinces in Thailand,” the report said.
The report by NNT omitted an explanation that under the Hotel Act all accommodation owners with venues with five or more rooms that are rented out at daily rates must be registered as hotels and the site must comply with the required building regulations for hotels ‒ definitions that small hotel operators have for years been pleading for the government to revise.
Members of the Phuket Boutique Accommodation Consortium (BAC) filed another formal request last year, this one pleading for the government to extend an amnesty initiated in 2016 to upgrade their hotels in order to be registered under the Hotels Act. The amnesty expired on Aug 18 last year.
The issue of small accommodation venues that do not not comply with the Hotel Act came to a head in May 2018 when the Prachuap Khiri Khan Provincial Court ruled that two separate condo owners were guilty of breaching the Hotel Act by renting out their properties at daily or even weekly rates.
The bookings for the condos were made through accommodation booking powerhouse Airbnb, which in 2018 launched its campaign to work with local officials to have small accommodation venues brought into the fold to finally become legal.
The issue was never completely resolved, despite the Department of Local Administration entering an official partnership with Airbnb.
“Through the partnership, Airbnb and the Ministry of Interior’s DOLA will work together to train local provincial officials on hospitality, hosting and compliance standards; and onboard existing homestays onto Airbnb’s global platform,” Airbnb announced at the time.
In November 2019, Airbnb also announced its ‘best practices principles’ for regulations on short-term rentals, which included:
- Simple and online national-level registration: A simple, swift and online registration system for short-term accommodation to ensure compliance and promote high safety standards.
- Differentiated regulation: A differentiated – rather than one-size-fits-all – approach to regulation which distinguishes between the various types of short-term accommodation activity. For example, regulations should differentiate between someone sharing a room in their home, their own home occasionally or someone with a vacation rental for full commercial purpose.
- Industry-wide approach: There should be an industry-wide approach to regulation and close cooperation between all industry participants and regulators in implementing regulations.
Regardless, the definitions used in the Hotel Act have remained unchanged, leaving many small accommodation venue operators illegal.