Phuket is 'in serious trouble'

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Thailand’s premier island destination took a slating from National Geographic recently. National Geographic called on 522 so-called experts to assess the world's top island destinations in terms of the affect that tourism is having on the islands. As you can imagine, Phuket did not come off too favorably.

Each destination was given a score out of 100. Phuket's score was a lowly 46, which means the island is “in serious trouble”.

The National Geographic experts commented as follows:

"Chaotic development. The Thai people do not realize what a beautiful island we have. They continue to over-exploit all the island's resources. Old buildings from the pioneer settlement era still can be found downtown. However, many are not taken care of. No building code harmonizing construction with the natural settings, especially on Pathong beach (ugly high-rise building). We missed the window of opportunity after the 2004 tsunami to clean out illegal coastal development. Very sad."

"Phuket's original charm as an astonishingly beautiful, unspoiled, and culturally rich destination has been completely lost."

"Given the tsunami, it's wonderful to see what has been achieved to rebuild people's lives in two and a half years. What I experienced is a credit to small and micro businesses that kept faith in the tourism future of the island. Like all destinations, there are various ecological, social, and economic challenges."

"A planning disaster! Reputation for bars and illicit activities overwhelm the natural charm of the Thai people. Prostitution and urban sprawl rampant."

"Too much tourism development without a plan. Pathong is a classical sex-tourism destination, probably worse than Bangkok. Some nice resorts and beaches. The water 'looks' fine, but is polluted."

It sounds to me as if the National Geographic team only visited Patong. What I dislike about this report is the implication by one of the panelists that it is entirely the fault of Thai people that Phuket is the way it is. Furthermore, people often seem to forget that there is more to Phuket than Patong.

However, on an island as large as Phuket, finding desirable areas shouldn't be a case of visiting secret spots. The entire Andaman region is in danger of falling behind the rest of the world as eco-tourism looks to be the thing of the future. This includes Krabi and Phang Nga.

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72 thoughts on “Phuket is 'in serious trouble'

  1. Running an agency offering portfolio of Phuket villas I completely disagree with opinion of National Geographic experts. I think Phuket is a beauty on its own focusing more on sea-sun-sand as tropical island destination, which is perfectly translated. Those wanting rich cultural heritage should go to Bangkok instead. Even Patong to my eyes is well laid out. Phuket town looks rather crowded, but it is more local daily living, not a tourism spot.

  2. You're right to say that the problem is not only located in Phuket… And this is probably why National Geographic points out the… thai responsability.

    Thais have a huge responsability :
    -greed like there is no tomorrow
    -poor conscience and ethics
    -no limit set by the authorities, and when there are a few, corruption bypasses them
    -no planning at all : we do today, and we will see tomorrow for the consequences
    etc. etc. etc

    Phuket is… a dump. Let's be honest. Phuket will die like it lived : overvalued.

    Only stupid tourists and nouveaux riches want to go to on this "dream island".

  3. More travel publications and blogs should write about the sorry state of tourist development in Thailand. The natural beauty of Thailand is quickly being eclipsed by rampant, unplanned development with little regard for the environment of local people.

    I spend half the year on Koh Lanta and it is disgusting what has happened there in a very short time since the tsunami. There appears to be no comprehensive planning whatsoever.

    There is only one rule in Thailand when it comes to tourism development: GREED!

  4. Jeez, I guess the NG people paid a fleeting visit to "Pathong" which they can't even spell, and skipped the rest of the island. Comments like "Pathong is a classical sex-tourism destination, probably worse than Bangkok." – maybe they didn't even look around all of Patong… only Bangla road? Patong is more full of package tourists, families, Asian tourists on a cheap off season holiday. I don't like Patong, but it really does bug me when people start off by saying "Phuket", but they really mean Patong.

    Phuket Town is still a quite lovely place in my opinion, but there seems to be a suggestion that the locals should not be allowed to modernise, they should preserve the old ways so the tourists can gawp…? In the last 9 years (since I have been here) there has been massive improvement in infrastructure – all major roads widened, loads of building around Phuket Town (not for the tourists really – Lotus, Big C, Central, Index, Makro etc..). Roads are busy, people have money here. New cars all over the island, lots of new pick ups and SUV's. Phuket is not some little fishing island where the locals live in straw huts and drive donkey carts, which is I guess what NG would like.

    It ain't perfect, but where is? Phuket is my home and I have many favourite spots which are all but untouched, or at least developed in a less frantic manner that Patong. I don't go to Patong unless I have to, but really if you head to the next beaches (Karon or Kamala) it's totally different. And if you can find Layan Beach, Ya Nui beach, Ao Sane beach, Laem Ka beach, Paradise Beach, Nai Yang Beach… come on, tell me it's ugly.

    Cheers. 8am. Need more coffee

  5. If that's what NatGeo thinks of Phuket, I'd hate to see what they'd write about Pattaya!

    Seriously, though, Thaialnd is slowly destroying itself with overdevelopment. Koh Chang is next on the hit list. In 5 years, it will be another Phuket and Pattaya.

  6. Strange story appeared in the print version of Khao Setakit as the front page headline, the story is also online at the People Channel News site here:

    The story says that a Californian gentleman is suing one of the Phuket's newspapers in court on the 2nd March – what does Matt say I wonder?

  7. hehehehe

    I found this video

    This Asian odyssey shows that the truth can indeed sometimes be stranger than fiction.

    Californian crusader Keith Francis Fitzgerald explains in this voxpop how he was lured from a well-paying job as an editor and reporter for the Korea Herald in Seoul — the nation's largest English daily — by a local newspaper publisher in Phuket, on his meagre budget he ended up living at the end of a dark dingy demoralizing dead-end street where he' reckons he is probably the only one who's not a bar girl or ladyboy.

    This is Part 2 of a series about expatriates living in Thailand. Keith explains how the publisher of this Phuket paper said "I am praying for you."

    Keith has scheduled a court hearing against the accused local paper on March 2nd, when a verdict is expected.

    Keith has sought out the help of many top officials in Phuket as well as US embassy officials.

    This David vs Goliath story appeared as the headline feature in the February 9-15 print issue of the Khao Setakit newspaper in Phuket. It was also featured on the NBT News website, and ran in the Samila Times in Hat Yai and People Channel News It is here online in Thai with a picture of Keith at the Reporters' Club of Phuket as he gives a statement to the press on his plight "out on a raft":

  8. According to that guy, Keith Francis Fitzgerald, he learned about that job opening at that newspaper company from you Matt, of the Lost Boy blog.

    Keith said that he learned from this blog that you were leaving a publication company in Phuket and so he contacted you to ask you what company you were leaving from and if he could replace you.

    So you refered him to the company you were leaving and he ended up getting hired there to only have the job taken back once he moved to Phuket.

    That's what he said. So you actually know this guy, Keith Francis Fitzgerald. Interesting.

  9. The story apparently made the Herald Tribune and is getting BIG, how did you hear about it Lost Boy? Is it true that Keith found the job via your website? Did he contact you via email or something?

  10. Was about six months or so ago. I was leaving my job and I mentioned I was leaving on my blog. Someone read that and then passed it onto Keith in Korea, who then emailed me. I confirmed with him that I was leaving and that I thought he was the type of person who'd get along at the PG.

    I didn't hire him or anything. All this was going on while the ex-managing editor was away, which was really when things began to sour at the Gazette.

    Anyway, I didn't hear anything about this until February when someone told me Keith had arrived in Phuket.

    Keith had evidently been in touch with the owner and it appears that was some miscommunication between the two parties that has led to this mess.

    I don't really understand it. None of the staff at PG, including myself and the guy who is ME now, arrived in Phuket with media visas.

    I'm just as baffled as everyone else with regards to this.

  11. Hi. Just a point of clarification: There was no "miscommunication" between myself and the owner of the Phuket Gazette. That man and the managing director very enthusiastically recruited me. Then, when I arrived here on the agreed-upon date of October 20, 2008, ready to start work the next morning, no one at the paper would return my phone calls or reply to my e-mail letters. When I went to the Gazette's office to find out what was up, the new managing editor told me that, as good a guy as I am, as qualified and etc., I didn't get the job because I "didn't arrive with a media visa." It was impossible to arrive with such a visa. Every Thai official I spoke with, from the Second Secretary at the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul to the media specialist at the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok to all the top officials in Phuket province have emphatically told me that the Non-immigrant B visa which I was given in Seoul was the correct one, that the next step was to get a work permit, and that, some time after that, my Non-Immigrant B visa could be converted to a media visa.
    No foreigner recruited by the Gazette had ever arrived with a media visa. The real mystery is why the Gazette so energetically recruited me and then created an impossible-to-satisfy precondition. It sure looks like I was sabotaged.

  12. Hoo Hoo Hoo sounds like an Agatha Christie

    Who sabotaged Keith?

    Why was Keith sabotaged?

    Where is Keith now?

    Was Lost Boy the PG contact point for Keith?

    Has PG made any comment on why all this has happened to Keith?

  13. Obviously Keith Fitzgerald thought he was hired when he wasn't — moved himself down there before he was even hired — idiot! –Asia is full of expat losers like that — probably got fired from his last job — but doesn't mention that — LOSER!

  14. It appears that this "Bobby" may be only minimally literate. I was given a formal letter of invitation to join the staff of the Gazette. A similar formal letter was sent to the Thai embassy in Seoul. Both indicated that I had been offered the job.
    Any birdbrain can toss out speculations, like throwing doo-doo against the wall to see if it sticks, but just in case "Bobby" cares to know the facts, the managing editor of the Korea Herald did not want me to leave, and, when I did, he gave me a very nice commemorative plaque which, as far as I know, no copy editor had ever received before.
    This "expat loser" has just finished the manuscript for his first book, and, in graduate school in L.A., received a teaching award which only three out of 130 people get every year at U.S.C.

  15. Keith — if you were stupid enough to of thought they said to get a media visa — you probably were stupid enough to of thought they hired you — media visa? –that's the give away — give it up — you misunderstood everything — you thought they said get a media visa — you thought they said they had hired you — face the facts you idiot!

  16. We are tired of your complaining and tantrums — it is all a ploy to publize your upcoming book — any birdbrain can see that.

  17. Any birdbrain can see that you misunderstood everything that the Phuket Gazette told you — any birdbrain can see that your entire campaign against the Phuket Gazette — your YouTube video and published articles — is all a plubicity stunt to advertise your upcoming book — give it up you loser.

  18. Booby is obviously way out of control and unable to employ either logic or elementally correct English. He twice uses the Cro-Magnon formula " … of thought …" instead of " … have thought …" Oonga-boonga oonga-boonga. And he presents himself as knowing what the owner of the Phuket Gazette was thinking when he enthusiastically recruited me while, at the same time, creating an impossible-to-breach barrier. i.e. "You must arrive with a media visa." Perhaps this motormouth is a mole or some other type of rodent on that notoriously leaky, listing barge. All the boobs down in Boobsville may be looking to the Grand Boob for prognostications and other dimsights, but it's the judge who will decide. Booby needs to take a Valium or two, then some lessons on basic English verb tenses and a year or two's worth of classes in how to make assertions which actually make sense.

  19. Lost Boy seems like the only sane person around here – what is the big deal? I enjoy as a good read and hope that the trolls dont invade

  20. I checked and it looks like no-one at the Gazette is responsible although there is a rumor that the owner's schoolboy son may be responsible for the rantings so don't take it to heart

  21. this is getting interesting. i'm 100% neutral here, so don't accuse me of siding with anyone, but bobby does bring up some reasonable points. the supposed need for a "media visa" is so strange that one can't help but think that there was some major misunderstandings and/or miscommunications involved.

  22. What reasonable points "James" ?

    From what I heard this poor American was screwed good and proper by Magee and you call it a misunderstanding without any argument. Either explain or stop causing trouble

  23. patong bob, you need to be open-minded.

    keith could be right. or the phuket gazette could be right. not of us really know.

    go back and read what bobby says. he presents some resonable points.

    be open-mined. i have no stake in this. i'm 100% neutral.

    be open minded. that is all.

  24. Me, too. I'm 100% neutral. I'm the fairest of all. No one can buy me off. I say that bilious Bobby is brimmin' over with bitter blather. His theory makes me weary: Keith concocted a catastrophe just to promote his masterpiece? This guy could write scenarios for Oliver Stoned. LBJ had JFK greased cuz Kennedy wasn't committed to a war against the pinkos in Nam. Those moonwalks were hoaxes. The 9/11 attacks were carried out on Shrub's orders. Smoke another one, Blobman. Keith got screwed in the worst way. The truth will out.

  25. Looks like this guy really got screwed over by the PG.

    People really need to see this in a sympathetic way.

    One man is left without a job in a country where he probably knew less than few people.

    Bobby should realize that just because this is the internet, and face or identity is not shown, he needs to respect and understand other people's situations.

    It's very rude to just call someone stupid from hearing one side of the story.

    If you want to really call this guy stupid, then say it to his face. Bobby.

    Obviously people have too much time on their hands on the internet.

    This Keith guy is in real trouble. He has no job, and he is fighting for justice.

    PG really screwed him over. This is the problem that we see in over-seas job offers. I've read numerous newspaper articles on foreign people getting screwed over .

    Basically. Bobby you need to relax. Don't put people down just because you think he made a bad judgement.

    Put yourself in his shoes.
    If you had been screwed over by a Thai newspaper company, and was left with no job; I don't think you will be so happy being called stupid.

  26. I have come to Phuket island for 17 years now and belief me that many people are cheated in both the work and business

    This American is lucky he can speak English and because the Laborious Courts accept his petition against this Phukketen Gazette I think that at least there is a case in the process of the autorities of Phuket

    Booby is not a real name and I think it must be the Gazette employer posting himself as I hear about this case in the German media so it must be big. They say that the Public Relations Department reported this case in media already

  27. Bobby, what are you on about!

    It's so blatantly obvious that this guy was completely screwed over by a relentless wannabe media mogul. Who the hell would concoct a story like his, living in a horrible apartment and putting in the hard yards to expose a tyrant without even knowing how to speak Thai… if you ask me Keith is a legend. I've known a lot of people who've been shafted by dodgy bosses when getting jobs overseas. This guy is fighting the good fight because he has no other choice.

    But I'm sure it's just to promote a book… you idiot!

  28. Everyone is jumping in to take Keith Fitzgerald's side against the Phuket Gazette without the most obviously of possibilities being mentioned. So I have to state this most obvious possibility:

    Keith Fitzgerald got hired PENDING a background/reference check.

    The Phuket Gazette did a background/reference check and something bad came up and so the employment offer to Keith Fitzgerald was revoked.

    Unfortunately for Keith Fitzgerald, he had already moved himself down there to Phuket before learning that the Phuket Gazette canceled their employment offer to him because of him failing his background/reference check.

    So obvious! That is MOST LIKELY what happened! That makes perfect sense and explains EVERYTHING. Think about it.

  29. What JR99 says could be true; or maybe not. But that theory would explain everything.

    JR99 is not saying that is what happened. He is just saying that is an 'obvious possibility.'

    Keith, what do you have to say in response to JR99's statement?

  30. I got an even better one than Agent 99's: The owner sent out some of his most-trusted yes-boys and yes-girls to tail Keith, as it were. They discovered that he has an affinity for silk underwear featuring images of Polynesian flowers, especially trumpet vines and the vanilla plant. The underlings reported this to the owner whose name appears nowhere in the paper. The Chief of Oz decided that his enterprise could not risk bringing aboard such a pervert. Indeed, Mister Moneybags was so disturbed that he decided Keith didn't deserve to be told before he moved to Phuket that his hiring had been revoked.

  31. IP Check? James and JR99 are the same person , it appears that the Gazette told its freelance reporter James Joyner not to agitate things as there is more to this than meets the eye, James then craftily trolled along and left a comment as JR99 to get Keith to come out of the woodwork and say something. I know hundreds of guys that are so jealous of Keith having a whole block of Bangla girls to himself at night.

    James : I have lived in Phuket teaching and writing for several years and I am amazed at what you young boys will do to get Brownie points from Magoo

    Matt: Your site has some great Asian Island Soaps : Keep up the good work


  32. mitch,

    I AM NOT JR99!

    get your facts straight!

    making false accusations will only hurt your cause!

    as i already stated, i do not have a stake in this at all. i am 100% neutral.

    but unlike u and many others on this forum, i am open-minded to the possibility that keith francis fitzgerald could be the bad guy here.

    i do not know. i do not care.

    but i am open-minded to that.

    also, i am open-minded to the possibility that the phuket gazette is the bad guy here as well.

  33. James , I am sorry – Matt has proved your innocence and so I am now fully open to the possibility that Keith is guilty. Please though try to bring us facts not rumors. Did the Gazette do a background check and if so what were the real results? To be fair to both parties i think we should have only facts and no theories. In Korea background checks are done I would have thought.

    The amazing thing about this blog is that it suggests that Keith is guilty of something but does not say what…… I ask you to hypothesize, theorize or fantasize what is it that Keith has done?

    When posting answers please indicate if they are fact or fantasy!!

  34. I'm confused about exactly what people are insinuating a background check would have revealed. Given that Keith hasn't lived in Thailand (to my knowledge), are we talking about a background check with the Korean authorities or just a simple Google search?

    Most of you are just speculating based on your own prejudices in this case. Let's leave it to the courts to decide who is right and who is wrong.

  35. i assume a background check regarding his past employment — a work background check — would have been conducted for sure.
    that would be done to make sure he didn't lie about his qualifications, had accecptable job perfomance(s), and so on.

    as for a background check into any possible crminal record(s) — a crimial bakground check — that might of been done too.

  36. So much that's been posted here is just ridiculous. If that paper did a background check and found something untoward about Keith, the owner had the duty to contact him and tell him the deal was off. That wasn't done, according to the news accounts in Thai and English I've read. These people who dish out rumors about the journalist who was recruited from Korea and then ignored once he arrived in Phuket are trashy and look like the work of either the Gazette or some cyber lookie-loos who naturally side with the big bossman whenever an employee is treated like garbage.

  37. I love it! I Love WhatisMatt! I now know WhatIsMAtt – it is answering the world's problems, The Phuket Gazette is hilarious with its background check, perhaps they refused him because nothing came up.

    Obviously this American virgin boy has no idea of what Phuket is really all about and what old men in Phuket are supposed to be into.

    They say "if everybody does it then it must be normal"

    I saw one young American with an old Thai woman the other day and thought wow this guy is sick going with an old woman and then it hit me like a sledgehammer when Amy told me that he was after her daughter!

    In the land of black sheep a white sheep is not welcome. I feel so sorry for Keith I just wish he could understand some of the island's sick cults.

  38. phuket is a small island with a small ex-pat community, so anything like this is likely to cause a lot of talk. this an't bangkok or changmai u know.

  39. Jamesy boy Phuket is almost 60 km long with densely populated areas and plenty of places for the kiddy fiddlers to hide, we hear about it and read about it all the time.

    Now from the way you talk James it seems like you have a preference for Rocky Road rather than Lemon Meringue Pie

    Plenty of underaged totty for sale in Patong I even read about a guy like you being busted recently so be careful now because we are watching you now

  40. Thanks to Matt for bringing judiciousness to what has sometimes devolved into boneheaded trash-tossing by people who have no clue at all what the facts are in this case, and who, among other offenses, write as if they were just released from the frontal lobotomy ward of Outer Mongolia's District 27B Medical Center. To wit, James' sorry attempts to spell "criminal."
    A few facts to consider: I have no criminal record. The national desk editor — a veteran, top-knotch political reporter — at the previous paper where I worked told me that I was the best editor and writer at the Korea Herald. When I left there to join the staff of the Phuket Gazette, I was given a commemorative plaque by the managing editor. I learned that no other "copy editor" had been given such a form of appreciation.
    Another thing to bear in mind: the management of the Phuket Gazette is now on version #3 of why it decided to act as if it had not recruited me from abroad and formally hired me.
    My story has never changed. Not in the slightest. Nor have I found it necessary to send out baskets full of goodies to various officials in this province, or to have agents spy on my adversaries to try to dig up salacious nuggets which, if worse comes to worst, could be served to the horse flies that feed on meadow muffins.

  41. After joining this absorbing blog I hope that the courts give Keith fair compensation for his heartache. He obviously has an impeccable record and is highly literate, either the owner of the newspaper is genuinely evil or else perhaps he was fed misinformation.

    Business owners around the world are fed misinformation by staff and it is often because they feel that certain new additions to their teams might make them feel inadequate. In Thailand this phenomenon is more prominent, with human resources of a much poorer class than countries like Korea – people of outstanding talent are often despised.

    I have seen Keith speaking and read his writings (out of nowhere this fella seems to be everywhere), it is clear that he is exceptionally gifted and find it hard to tell him that by being so perfect it might make his life harder than in other countries.

    I am especially impressed with the speed at which Keith has developed his intelligence and network with his saga being the hot gossip of the town. Talking of hot gossip I heard a reporter at the Laguna say that there is Thai style going on at the courts which means that Keith will probably be made to wait a long time and PG will probably try to make small offers to him.

    The Gazette has increased staff but the quality has dropped considerably since the Chris Husted years and that the TV is going downhill too with advertisers having more options available to them. PG once had a monopoly on media but then competition came. PG had the opportunity to take on editor par excellence Keith Fitzgerald who would have helped them keep their market foothold. Poor management decisions to get rid of all their great staff and take on new girls might be the start of the end of paper that was once without question the best media for expat islanders.

    The hottest gossip is about a super hot reporter at the Gazette, because it is just hearsay I will keep clean of rumor. But if you heard it then at least you know now that I head it too – hehehehehehehe

  42. Michelle wrote on
    March 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 pm:

    Jamesy boy Phuket is almost 60 km long with densely populated areas and plenty of places for the kiddy fiddlers to hide, we hear about it and read about it all the time.

    Now from the way you talk James it seems like you have a preference for Rocky Road rather than Lemon Meringue Pie

    Plenty of underaged totty for sale in Patong I even read about a guy like you being busted recently so be careful now because we are watching you now


    Your insulting comment (above) to me is very offensive and I am not even going to counter it. That offensive comment hurts whatever points you try to make. Offensive comments hurt your cause. That is punishment enough that I am not even going to counter your insulting comment against me.

  43. educated people know only too well that "only the guilty ones will be offended and thus identified by such broad accusations"

    Bingo! We have an epileptic fit from Jamesy boy

    I rest my case your honor, this chap does not make to on to the FBI list of known heterosexuals nor the CIA list of mature muff munchers.

    James you have absolutely no right to try and judge Keith when you are too ashamed to go and look in the mirror at your own face and ask yourself "who the hypocritical hell am I to dare stoop so low and lobby against an innocent abused man? how ugly do I look after betraying my ethics to the point that I imagine a lurid expose on my activities to the point that I let it slip in a fit?

    Phuketians now know that this cyber-slag can dish it out but he can't handle his cupboard being opened to reveal the cobwebs in his undies. You are so sick you make me laugh with disgust, if I saw you I would probably vomit in your face with disgust. I did not condemn you, you condemned yourself you – pathetic!


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