Phuket people complain tourism revenue mostly going to big hotels


PHUKET’S nightlife operators and workers complained to a Progressive Movement team that the revenue generated by the Sandbox scheme is mainly going to big hotels as tourists now mostly stay within these large compounds that have a full range of services, said today (Oct. 2).

Ms Pannika Wanich, executive director of  Progressive Movement, also known as the dissolved Future Forward Party, and the the group’s team in Phuket met several restaurateurs, owners of pubs and bars, DJs and others workers in Phuket town yesterday which was the first day in seven months that restaurants were allowed to serve alcoholic beverages. 

Most said while the Sandbox scheme has generated 3 to 4 billion baht over the past three months since its launch the revenue is mostly concentrated among big hotels.

Tourists tend to stay in these large hotels that have a full range of services and have not been spending much outside the premises.

This has led to income not filtering down to those struggling to survive on a daily basis with small hotels also not getting many guests as the number of tourists coming is not as large as before.

A pub manager said that when the Sandbox scheme was announced, he was delighted because he thought he could finally reopen after months of zero revenue. He followed all government measures with his workers all getting two Covid jabs, they also got the third jab when called to do so.

However in the end pubs and bars were still not allowed to reopen despite nightlife venues previously bringing in billions of baht to the country with Phuket having the reputation of having some of the best bars in Asia.

A restaurateur said yesterday was the first day some light came back into their lives because they are now allowed to serve alcoholic beverages. 

Previously despite the Sandbox scheme being launched he could not open his restaurant because it is located in a nightlife area and without alcoholic drinks there would not be any customers while being burdened with 100,000 baht a month rent.

Over the past seven months he has been giving his workers enough pay to survive because Phuket is not in the dark red zone thus they cannot claim compensation from Social Security despite not having any income.

Panika noted that although the Phuket Sandbox scheme is the first necessary step in opening up the country to tourism and supporting the economy, it has to be admitted that not all entrepreneurs and daily wage earners have benefited.

The key issues are the complex entry measures and nightlife venues still not allowed to reopen.

“Today I walked along the streets in the tourist area and Patong is still a cemetery – there are still very few tourists. 

“This is partly because of the complex and costly entry measures compared to other countries that have begun to open tourism, such as those in Europe.

“The other part is that the key tourist attraction of Phuket has not reopened yet, that is the nightlife business. In a month’s time Phuket will enter its high season but people here have come to terms with this going to be the third high season since the coronavirus pandemic that Phuket will not have the opportunity to receive as many tourists as it did in the past as long as the pubs and bars can’t open and restaurants still have to close at 10 p.m.,” Pannika said.


The nightlife strip right off Patong Beach in pre-Covid days. Both photos: Jo. (CC BY 2.0)

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