The increasing number of crimes targeting foreign tourists in resorts, including Pattaya, is casting doubt on the government’s aim to collect 2 trillion baht in annual tourist revenues by 2015. Many think the authorities will need to work much harder to allay foreigners’ fears about scams and street crimes. Horrors such as the rape and robbery of two Russian tourists in Pattaya last Christmas have set alarm bells ringing.
Lieutenant Colonel Aroon Promphan, chief inspector of Pattaya’s Tourist Police, said that Russians had now overtaken the British as the largest group of foreign tourists in the resort. He agreed that that the rape case had caused the Russian embassy to express concern, but pointed out that he had only a small force supplemented by foreign volunteers. However a number of security improvements were now in place.
More tourist checkpoints and surveillance cameras have been placed in high-risk areas, whilst the Tourist Police hotline number–1155–has been publicized on a wider scale amongst tourists and expats. Hotels have also been asked to step-up security measures and to warn guests of unwise behavior such as wearing ostentatious jewelry and venturing into unlit areas at night.
Critics point out that not all initiatives are followed through. Last year there was a plan to encourage tourists to report crimes at selected 7-Eleven stores, but the venture never came to fruition. Civic authorities built several police observation towers on Beach Road, but these are seldom manned. On the other hand, emergency “red” phones with direct access to City Hall Police have been installed in busy areas of the resort and seem to work well.
As the government strives to restore international confidence in the Thai tourist industry, it has established a 50-million-baht insurance fund to aid foreign visitors in distress. Police General Vudh Liptapanlop said the fund would be used to help foreigners who are injured or killed in accidents whilst on vacation here. He added that laws against swindlers and scammers would be enforced more rigorously as part of the preparations for the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. However, there is no detail yet on how the insurance fund will operate in practice.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reports that the number of foreign visitors overall for 2012 was 22.3 million, well above the target of 21 million. These foreigners generated revenue of 960 billion baht, far higher than the 500 billion baht earned from domestic tourists. The unexpected surge was largely due to an influx of Chinese tour groups, whose numbers are expected to grow strongly throughout 2013. Experts say that tour-groups tend to be less vulnerable to opportunistic street crime as the members are more closely monitored and supervised than people travelling alone.