Personal safety is the primary concern of foreigners visiting Thailand, according to a new survey by Eureka Consulting.
In a comprehensive report to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the consulting firm stresses that both new and experienced travelers to the Kingdom worry most about their safety while here. Some of those surveyed report having lost confidence in Thailand given their negative experiences in having been cheated or victims of crimes. Others point to misunderstandings during their travels here and to violent crime in Bangkok and in major beach resorts, including Pattaya.
Eureka surveyed 3,640 respondents from 14 countries that are key sources of tourist– both first-time and repeat travellers. The goal was to determine Thailand’s image in the eyes of foreign tourists. Safety was overwhelmingly the main issue, with other factors such as tourism crisis management and 24-hour tourist hot-lines also scoring strongly. Returning tourists from China and western Europe in particular had little confidence because of their bad experiences here.
The lowest marks were awarded for Thailand being slow, sexy, messy and noisy. On the other hand, reactions were positive for the country being welcoming, friendly, amazing, happy and exciting. Thailand also was seen as a good value-for-money destination, especially related to shopping. Beautiful beaches were most frequently cited as the reason why tourists come to Thailand.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior have united to step up security measures related to foreign tourists. In beach resorts such as Pattaya, more CCTV cameras are to be installed, whilst a central tourist centre will be established, manned by a hotline staff that can collectively speak seven different languages.
The prime minister has suggested that every tourist-orientated city should appoint a police deputy superintendent in charge of tourist safety, whilst reinforcing shore and beach patrols. Civic authorities in Pattaya want to build a three-meter high tower on Beach Road to allow police officers on high to keep an eye on busy districts at night and summon instant assistance to trouble spots.
A Pattaya-based diplomat conducting a survey on tourist safety for his embassy observed that there was no shortage of initiatives but the problem lay in implementation. “Last year,” he said, “we were told that tourists with a problem would be able to summon assistance from a 7/11 convenience store police hotline, but nothing ever materialized.”
However, he gave full support to the latest City Hall initiative, “Thepprasit 2310”, which has installed free emergency phones in public areas with back-up from a fully- equipped radio room and squad cars to visit any trouble spot quickly. The officers are working closely with other police units in the city, especially Tourist Police and its foreign assistants who are based nightly in the Walking Street area.
A Pattaya police spokesman said officers in the city spend most of their time on tourist-related problems, but he felt that tourists should also take some responsibility for their own welfare. For example, he suggested that visitors should not wear expensive jewelry, should avoid unlit areas, and should be suspicious of strangers offering tempting services. He noted that the overwhelming majority of street crimes in Pattaya are committed at night.