Another blemish for Phuket

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on March 17, 2008

Swedish tourist murdered on beach

CNN reports that a Swedish woman was murdered Saturday afternoon during a long walk on a Phuket beach. Phuket is one of Asia’s most popular beach resorts, but it has suffered a string of setbacks in recent years. In 1997 at the onset of the Asian financial crisis, there were fears that tourism would plummet. A hugely effective promotional effort under the banner, Amazing Thailand, combined with steep discounts by hotels, airlines, and tour operators turned potential disaster into an unexpected surge in tourism and revenues.

Other setbacks include the horrific tsunami in December 2004, and a series of bird flu scares. In the meantime, regional competition has heated up, with world-class resorts in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam vying for a piece of Thailand’s biggest market: the EU. A single murder or a few — at least one other tourist was also recently murdered in Phuket –can have an amazingly negative effect on perception, and tourist arrivals.

Although flights to Phuket are booked solid and rooms are hard to find, what appears to be early signs that tousists are being purposely tracked — the Swedish tourist murdered Saturday was followed from her hotel — by criminals on the island is a serious threat to the tourism industry. That’s particularly true in the context of news reports of terrorist bombings and political uncertainty in Bangkok.

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