Mr. Sethaphan Buddhani
Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Phuket Office
When we were children most of us dreamed about riches, big houses, fast cars or something similar, but Khun Sethaphan Buddhani, the incumbent Director of Tourism for Phuket did not. From an early age he became aware of the inequalities in life and developed a deep concern for the poorest members of Thai society. As he grew, he realized that tourism was a mass employer and could provide a way out of the poverty trap for many people. That is why he is very happy to be in his present position.
“At the moment, the tourist industry is suffering to a very great degree. There are various reasons for this including the political unrest, which seems to be having a greater affect than in the past, and the world economic downturn.” Khun Sethaphan explained, “Phuket is faring better than some places in Thailand, but now we are in the low season and hotel occupancy is as low as 30% to 40%. Tourists nowadays are being conservative with their money until their economic future is less uncertain.”
“The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) acts as a marketing and Public Relations instrument ever ready to promote new projects though global advertising to attract travelers to this part of the world.” he continued, “Although my area of responsibility is Phuket, I am keen to see tourism developed in other provinces also. It should not just be Phuket that benefits from the tourist industry, but the whole of Thailand.”
“From my point of view, Phuket should concentrate on its natural assets, ranging from the beaches and coral reefs to the Sino-Portuguese architecture in Thalang and Yaowarat Road in Phuket town. For the island to have a sustainable tourist economy everyone should be involved in responsible tourism – government, hoteliers, and transport operators – anyone associated with the trade. We must concentrate on finding the right balance by having a low impact on the environment and local culture, but at the same time providing the services the visitor needs.” expounded Khun Sethaphan, “Phuket presently is a good brand name, but to keep it that way, now may be the time to re-establish the forests and natural resources that we had in the past.”
“Phuket has Sea, Sun, Sand and Sports. Now we need to establish Security, Standards and Service.” Khun Sethaphan further added, “But this is a 2-way street. For example, as regards standards, everywhere in Phuket you can see that many foreign travelers do not wear shirts and helmets while riding motorcycles. This is a terrible image to project giving the impression that there are no regulations or that they are not enforced. We want tourists, but we also want them to respect our laws and culture whilst in our country.”