Continuing Scams Trashes the Image of Thailand’s Tourist Industry
Thailand has long been a tourist destinations for millions of traveler and this is despite on-going political unrest; the country now again under Junta control with martial law in place.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) continues to laud Thailand’s attributes of being the ‘Land of Smiles’ and indeed the Military Junta has launched a campaign of ‘Thainess’ in order to lure back tourists who now avoid Thailand like the plague.
So what’s causing the decline and are their measures that could be implemented to save Thailand’s tourist industry from collapse?
One of the most notable concerns from tourists are the number of scams that are being perpetrated from over-pricing, jet ski damage scams and most worrying those coming from the Royal Thai Police.
In recent weeks we’ve been given a number of instances showing Thai police officers shaking down tourists on the streets of Bangkok.
The ruse is a simple one; stop a couple of unsuspecting tourists and state that you are looking for illegal substances. Tourists are then being searched and it has been reported that the police are planting drugs on them in order to extort money.
The tactic is one of fear for the tourist is often threatened with a long period in jail and heavy fines; it has been reported that many of the tourists who have been scammed merely paid out of fear.
Over many years the issue of the Jet Ski scam has often been raised with the Thai authorities refusing to tackle the issue; in fact it is often been reported that the police themselves directly benefit from the scam as they ‘negotiate’ the amount payable for the alleged damage and then pocket a large percentage of the money.
Across the mainstream media and social networks Thailand continues to be exposed to unwanted coverage of its problems and once again the Thai authorities have declared that they are going to tackle the issues;
“I acknowledged all the problems and promised to deal with the issues.” Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul
In the views of many this statement will be viewed with skepticism and rhetoric at best for despite years of protests by visiting tourists the stream of scams, both old and new, continue unabated and it is inevitably taking its toll on the tourism industry.
In the minds of many tourists, expats and indeed foreign ambassadors the solution to all these problems remains an easy task … enforce the law and punish the law breakers.
Unfortunately when it comes to any wrongdoing by the police those officers are most often merely transferred on full pay to an ‘inactive post’ or simply transferred to another province.
We asked one expat who wished to remain anonymous for his own safety about the issues …
“For starters you’re not looking at just a couple of dollars here and a few dollar there; when it comes to the scams perpetrated by the police you could be looking at thousands of dollars.
Here in Phuket there are numerous lucrative opportunities for the police including the Jet Ski damage scam and although this is widely publicized there remains tourists who are willing to rent them and run the high-risk of being scammed.
Its common knowledge that many of the police officers are crooked and you’ll often see them walking into bars and shaking down the owners for protection money.
If you’re into being over-charged whilst receiving poor service, being ripped off and scammed then Thailand is definitely the place to visit and regardless of the calls from honoury consuls and ambassadors nothing ever gets done about the issues.”
It is the last line of the comment that gives the answer to the problem and that is to avoid Thailand as a holiday destination; in fact I find it incredulous as to why any expat would continue residing in Thailand considering the issues.
Tourism is a valuable source of income for any nation and in Thailand it currently equates to approximately 9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); take such a large slice out of the country’s potential income and things have to change … either that or the country would suffer the economic loss which would have a serious impact on the economy as a whole.
For the Thai Government it must address the issues if it is to retain tourism in any meaningful numbers and maybe it’s time they started to take the criticism onboard and did something constructive with it.
It must be said that if the current scams and rip offs are not addressed then the on-going decline of tourism will only continue.
There’s a mantra in business that Thailand may want to consider … it’s far more cost-effective to retain a customer than it is to seek a new one. Keeping the customer happy should be the goal for this not only keeps the customer coming back but will encourage them to recommend others.
Unfortunately the current situation appears in reverse and those who go home after being scammed will likely spread the message across the mainstream and social media which will continue to damage the country’s reputation … a reputation that current screams … Don’t Visit Thailand.
Feel free to express your opinions below.