UNDP assesses Phuket tourism woes, strategy for ‘sustainable’ restart

UNDP assesses Phuket tourism woes, strategy for ‘sustainable’ restart

PHUKET: Representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were in Phuket yesterday (Aug 26) to hear about the depth of the problems caused by the COVID-19 impact on tourism as a part of its research into developing Thailand to be a sustainable tourism destination.

UNDP Resident Representative to Thailand Renaud Meyer and members of his delegation were welcomed to Phuket by Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai and other officers at Phuket Provincial Hall.

“Phuket is an important tourist destination in Thailand. What will be done in Phuket will affect and help solve the country’s problems as well as become a model for other provinces,” Mr Meyer said, referring to the ‘Phuket Model’ to be followed from Oct 1, when international tourists will be allowed into Phuket, the first province in the country to receive foreign tourists since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

“This visit aims to hear from local officials about the current tourism situation in Phuket, the problems and solutions, as well as the economic and social effects. This information will be taken for our research in order to find a good solution that meets the needs of local people,” Mr Meyer explained.

“For our research, we want to focus on sustainable development which covers all groups of people affected by the situation. To make this happen, the development needs the engagement and cooperation from officials, the private sector and local people,” he added.

On June 5, the UNDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to develop and recover tourism from the COVID-19 crisis together, in order to create sustainable tourism under the ’new normal’, Mr Meyer noted.

“The UNDP and the TAT are working with many educational institutions to conduct research, hoping to change Thailand tourism from mass tourism to sustainable tourism, with more consideration for nature and the local people,” he said.

“We are working closely with the TAT to support new kinds of tourism in Thailand, such as medical tourism, nature-friendly tourism, sport tourism, and others,” he added.

“I want to praise Thai government for effective COVID-19 control measures and the Phuket government for helping sensitive groups of people, such as the Rawai sea gypsies. By giving them equipment to make dried fish, they can make a living,” Mr Meyer said.

Mr Meyer also praised the Phuket government for its efforts to help people seriously affected by the current economic crisis, such as those working in Patong. 

V/Gov Supoj pointed out that Phuket re-opening to foreign tourists is being well supported by businesses, but many local people were still concerned and afraid of a possible second outbreak of COVID-19 on the island.

“We are brainstorming with relevant officers and business owners to find the best way to run the project with high safety,” V/Gov Supoj said.

“The disease control measures being implemented by the PPHO [Phuket Provincial Health Office] work very well and are creating a good reputation for the country,” he said.

“The Phuket government will keep enforcing the measures. However, success in controlling any potential outbreak requires good cooperation from everyone,” he said.