THAI TOURISM IN HEAVY DECLINE BUT NOT ACCORDING TO THE TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND – If you want to find any organization in the world who knows how to stretch the truth to ludicrous proportions then head on over the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand).
It has never ceased to amaze me, well it is called Amazing Thailand, and how the TAT spring into action each and every time Thailand gets bad press – which is a lot.
When it comes to the poor tourists they are either hounded by local police for money or face extortion and acts of violence from the Jet Ski or Tuk Tuk operators; and don’t even get me started on the Mafia operated Taxis.
Of course if you understand Thailand and Thai people then you also understand that it’s all about money – they simply do not care how they get it, even if that does included murder, or where it comes from, often bribery and corruption, providing it keeps on coming.
The trouble with this attitude is that tourist’s numbers are declining and doing so at an alarming rate; well that according to TAT is completely untrue.
Pick a public relations disaster, any one you like, from the Tiger Disco Fire that killed 2 tourists or the murder of Michelle Smith who was stabbed to death right outside her hotel for less than $10, and the TAT will quickly release a rosy set of tourist figures extolling just how many millions of tourist love to come to Thailand.
Yes, according to the TAT, foreign tourists simply cannot get enough of being mugged, raped, and intimidated or being extorted, as according to the latest figures tourism rose to over 23 million visitors last year.
After years of experience I can honestly say that my day would not be complete without a corrupt police officer pulling me over and threatening me with trumped up charges unless I handed over money. Of course then there is the delightful trips to Immigration where foreigners are treated worse than animals, made to wait around needlessly and then have it announced that a single piece of paper, from the other 40 pieces of paper you have already compiled, is missing which means more time wasted, unless of course you are willing to slide money under the table.
Last year, I decided to apply for a 1 year Non-Immigrant Visa, just so I could experience the joy of the friendly and profession Royal Thai Immigration Police. I complied exactly 41 sheets of A4, which consisted of everything from photocopies of each page from my Passport to even BLANK sheets with just my signature on. Now I couldn’t understand why any official paperwork would have to consist of BLANK A4 pieces of paper with just my signature on – it all seemed rather suspicious and ominous; maybe if I did something wrong they could simply fill this in with anything they like, from a confession to robbery or even murder, with the sole intent of extorting money from me.
After 30 days I returned, only to discover they had lost some of my paperwork. No, nothing is done by computer, I’m not sure they know how to use them. Anyway after another hour I left. After 10 days I received a phone call and was told that my paperwork was not in order, so back I went again. On this occasion they also fined me for over-staying my visa.
The situation occurred twice more and each time it cost money for an apparent over-stay. At this point I could see this was a pretty lucrative way for the Thais to make money. Just tell the foreigner the paperwork is lost or not in order and then fine them for an over stay.
After finally getting the visa I left Thailand 2 days later and returned to my home country. I have a number of friends who still live there and they are not surprised that tourism, regardless of how the TAT spins it, is in rapid decline. One of my friends owns a small hotel and even though he is right in the middle of the high-season, he is having to offer tourist a minimum of 40% discount and even that is not enough to attract sufficient patrons to fill his hotel; however according to the TAT all hotels are now running at an occupancy rate exceeding 95%.
I have to admit that after my experience of Thailand and the Thai people it is not a destination I would consider visiting and certainly not living as an expat. From the stories I have been told, with all the corruption, rape, muggings, murder and the growing problems with gun crime, it is not surprising that tourism is almost non-existent. The unfortunate part here is that Thailand could be an excellent tourist destination but that would require the Thais to change their incessant greed and stop the high levels of crime; something that they appear either unable or unwilling to do.