A LUXURY cruise company wants to switch docking points on Phuket because ”the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible.”
The cruise line also reported rip-offs and abusive behavior and said the attitude of the taxi drivers was ”totally unacceptable and extremely bad for tourism.”
The cruise company, which prefers to remain anonymous for now, is taking its complaint direct to Phuket’s Governor, Wichai Praisa-ngob.
Such a criticism from an important source of income today and in the future for Phuket is likely to trigger rapid action, much as if an instruction had come directly from a senior level of government in Bangkok.
The concern of the cruise company first came to light in an email exchange with a well-regarded west coast restaurant.
”We would have liked to send you more people, but unfortunately the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible,” the email from the cruise line said.
Thailand’s new slogan, ”Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value,” is aimed at attracting more tourists.
Yet Phuket’s reputation as a holiday destination is being damaged by frequent complaints about excessive fares demanded by taxis and tuk-tuks, thuggery, and the lack of an efficient, cheap public transport system around the island.
Added criticism from a luxury line management is certain to accelerate Governor Wichhai’s plan to impose meters in taxis and tuk-tuks as fast as possible.
Reversing the damage done by tuk-tuks and taxis will also be high on the agenda for the governor’s second meeting in April with the honorary consuls from 15 key nations that provide Phuket with most of its tourists.
Phuketwan has seen the email correspondence between the cruise company management and the Phuket restaurant, which ends with the cruise management expressing the intent to complain directly to Phuket’s governor.
Here are edited exchanges:
From the cruise line: ”We were happy to promote your lovely restaurant and we did get a few good comments from a few guests who visited your venue. We would have liked to send you more people, but unfortunately the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible.
The local drivers who were in the port all work together with the same attitude and that is to totally rip-off tourists. These drivers were not pleasant to deal with at all, and for the next visit we are suggesting that the ship anchors off Patong Beach instead of docking in the Phuket Port.”
From the restaurant: ”Yes we all know the taxi driver situation in Phuket is horrific. Those same drivers will probably be the same ones in Patong, too, but at least from Patong it is not such a long drive and people can also opt for not going anywhere. Unfortunately we don’t have a pick up service, either.”
From the cruise line, intended for the governor: ”Following our vessel’s recent visit to Phuket, we would like to bring to your attention the extreme challenges faced in the Phuket Port with regard to taxis. The drivers on standby in the port quoted ridiculous fares from the start and it was clear that they were aiming to really extort money from our Residents, Guests and Crew.
We were informed that the drivers are part of the local community and are the only taxi vehicles allowed to pick-up from this area and that the port has no control over this. After we spoke with our Thai crew members on the ship about the proper rates that should be charged, we then attempted to negotiate more decent rates.
At one point the situation became quite unbearable and some of the drivers became verbally abusive when it was mentioned that their rates were ridiculous and way too high for us to consider.
It came down to the fact that the drivers refused to even consider to take the business if their rate wasn’t paid and they simply preferred to sit down and wait for another hopeful customer whom they could overcharge, even after they were warned that we would not give them any further business.
From this point onwards, the front office team recommended private transfers to be booked through the contracted tour company and no further taxi bookings were made. Thank you for your time and we trust that this situation will be looked into further as it is totally unacceptable and extremely bad for tourism.”
An initial complaint by the cruise line company to the Tourism Authority of Thailand brought no response.
A representative from the restaurant asked the cruise line whether the email exchange could be passed on to Phuketwan, and the cruise line manager agreed.
Every year, the cruise line delivers thousands of tourists to Phuket.
The importance of the cruise line market to Phuket became evident earlier this year with the arrival of the world’s most luxurious cruise liner, the Queen Mary 2, which stopped over on Phuket on a round-the-world tour.
More visits are also being made by US Navy vessels, including the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan last year and USS Nimitz this year.
International media and tourist chat sites have reported widely that the greed of local taxi and tuk-tuk drivers is the biggest negative of a visit to Phuket, which has good beaches, coral reefs, and much to recommend it to visitors.
Phuket Taxi Abuse: Cruise Line Slams ‘Rip-Offs’
By Alan Morison
Sunday, March 14, 2010