Scams, accidents scare away tourists from Thailand

Scams, accidents scare away tourists from Thailand
Pattaya city is a key destination for Russian tourists.

After a recent bus accident in Chon Buri that injured 26 Russian tourists, the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) recently urged Thai authorities to improve safety standards, or face a possible boycott by its members.

Narin Tijayung, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)'s office in Moscow, said the RUTI submitted a letter addressed to the Tourism Ministry via the office calling for concise, practical measures to ensure the safety of Russian tourists in the Kingdom.

The RUTI also reportedly demanded the Thai government solve these issues by the end of November, otherwise it will consider taking action to maintain the safety of Russian citizens. This action could include cancellation of all scheduled charter flights from Russia throughout the period of December 2013 to March 2014.

If the cancellations go ahead, other countries in the region - such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam - would be picked as destinations instead of Thailand, the letter reportedly warned.

Officials from the TAT and the ministries of Tourism and Transport will hold a meeting on November 26 to discuss the Russian complaints, according to Transport Minister Somsak Pureesrisak.

In the first 10 months of this year, Thailand welcomed 791,755 Russian tourists or 5.72 per cent of 13.85 million visitor arrivals at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, according to the TAT. The number rose 33.84 per cent from last year.

Meanwhile, the Department of Special Investigation will inspect 20 jewellery shops in Greater Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui and other locations after the Tourism Ministry reported complaints of price gouging and cheating of foreign customers.

Permanent secretary Suwat Sidthilaw said yesterday after submitting the ministry's request for a probe to Tarit Pengdith, director-general of the DSI, that at least 20 tourists have filed complaints of being duped. The latest case was a Portuguese national who was fooled into buying fake jewellery from a Bangkok shop, so the DSI must take action against these daring con artists. He said the practice of selling overpriced products to foreign visitors was damaging to the jewellery business, which was a key source of income for the country, contributing Bt2 billion-Bt3 billion a year.

Tarit said the DSI would now seriously crack down on these offenders - who often changed the names of the shops and owners but rarely the location - and the tour guides and tuk-tuk drivers who act as their accomplices. The DSI already has a list of some 20 suspicious jewellery shops to check out. The agency would soon join with the Tourism Ministry to open an operations centre to stamp out the racketeers targeting tourists, he added.

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