PHUKET- Perception can be tricky. Even if Phuket remains safe for tourists compared to many other resort areas around the world, tragic killing of travellers – especially of an Australian female travel agent on June 20- generated negative headlines for Thailand’s largest resort destination. The two men who stabbed to death Michelle Smith are now on trial in Phuket and could be condemned to death sentence.
At least, the death of Michelle Smith, who was invited for a fam trip, has been a wake-up call for authorities and the travel industry. A few days after the travel agent’s murder, Australian Ambassador James Wise, visited Phuket and called for a total ban on illegal weapons of all kinds on Phuket.
New measures are due to be discussed and rapidly implementing before the start of the high season at the end of October. In the aftermath of the murder, Phuket police and Phuket resorts began working to establish a more complete network of security cameras all over Phuket. A network of CCTV was announced a few years ago but only partially completed due to a lack of funding.
Progress to make Phuket a safer place is expected to become concrete when resort managers, police and local authorities meet at a ''Safe Phuket'' summit on August 17 in Patong. In 2010, Phuket welcomed in commercial accommodation 2.85 million tourists, including 2.38 million foreigners. This year, the resort destination is expected to welcome over 3.2 million travellers spending at least one night.
Safety remains a top issue for travellers. The recently released Thailand Destination Image survey concluded that safety problems destroy the positive image of Thai tourism. Tourists from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Italy expressed little confidence when visiting Thailand because of bad experiences with fraud and service misunderstandings. Many foreign tourists have the perception that Thailand is also unable to face and manage a crisis.