Following a serious marine accident in which two tourist boats capsized with the loss of 47 Chinese tourists and the injuring of another 56, the Thai government has introduced new plans for the marine tourism sector.
With Thailand having ambitious plans for its marine tourism sector, including the growing yacht charter market as well as tourist craft, the government has outlined a plan to overhaul the rules related to the movement of craft at coastal resorts. This is to underpin safety of tourist craft and yachts after the recent accident.
The Thai Tourism Ministry’s Permanent Secretary of Tourism and Sports, Pongpanu Svetarundra, has confirmed that Thai Baht 30m in compensation has already been paid to families of those who drowned. In addition, 13 survivors received compensation for medical treatment and property loss, raising the total compensation to around Thai Baht 30.4m. Further compensation payments will be paid by both the ministry and insurance companies.
The review of the rules is to rebuild confidence that safety is the highest priority within the marine tourism sector. Local criticism suggests that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the duty of care regime.
The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Weerasak Kowsurat, addressed this duty-of-care issue in recent statements, saying the focus should shift to enhancing safety as a prerequisite for the delivery of a quality tourism experience. He also promised prosecutions of those responsible.
In 2017 some 10 million Chinese visited Thailand, of which one-third visited Phuket. Since the accidents there has been a notable drop in tourism numbers, which it is estimated will lose Phuket’s economy some Thai Baht 42m over the next three months.
The general standard of marine safety and compliance to the rules at coastal resorts is suggested in the report to be ‘abysmal’. There are shortfalls in licencing and the training of crew. The move to restructure the processes will start with marine legislation and rules with stricter monitoring of registration documents for tourist boats.
Whether the restructuring will have any impact on the local yacht market is uncertain at this point. However, in fulfilling its ambitious marine tourism expansion plans, which include at least seven more marinas, the government will need to ensure an appropriate regime covering vessel operation and marine safety.