Lately, there has been plenty of discussion about Koh Phangan and its potential for luxury ecotourism. New hotel projects are in the works all over the island.
Despite all the talk, hope and speculation, Koh Phangan has little history of high end tourism success and no clear plan for success.
Success is defined differently by many involved in these discussions, but more worrisome is that few agree on what defines failure.
It is never to late for a positive reaction.
Here are the Five Deadly Sins of Tourism that Koh Phangan must avoid:
1. Hyper-growth =Rushing Into Mistakes
Rome was not built in a day, and neither was tourism to visit the ruins of modern-day Rome. A tourism infrastructure requires planning, training, rules and regulations. I am not a big fan of government and especially local authorities, but in the case of tourism, there at least needs to be some zoning and long-term thinking that is enforced with smart laws. Koh Phangan is growing at such breakneck pace, we all have concerns that some of the areas with greatest tourism potential are being overrun with the most expedient projects, many of which have zero concern for long-term effects on ecology, economy or logistics.
2. Copycat = Loss of Culture
Koh Phangan tourism development today lacks much that resembles anything uniquely Southern Thailand. Despite a culture that is as rich and wonderful except its "world famous fullmoon party", too much of the present development borrows on played out ideas from elsewhere. Thai people are far too creative, artistic minded and proud to have their tourism landscape hijacked by unoriginal, cookie-cutter projects.
3. Eco-Unfriendly = Not Sustainable
Whether its an over crowded Haad Rin, water front mega beach hotels, record breaking swimming pools or a tendency to look the other way while projects drain mangroves…it is pretty clear that Koh Phangan is not attempting to mimic Koh Chang's archipelago (Koh Kood comes to my mind) success as a perceived “green” destination.
4. Service-untrained staff = No Return Clients
It is difficult to find a truly service-oriented business in Koh Phangan. Even harder still to find one that can cater to clients who do not speak English. Koh Phangan faces an uphill battle on both fronts, with a shortage of labor trained in foreign languages and fewer still familiar with the adage that, “the customer is always right”. Service training and language skills are not the only challenges facing Koh Phangan’s aim at becoming a tourism mecca; the island has a glut of public holidays that occur during peak tourism months. Good luck to the politician who tries to resolve that delicate issue.
5. “All-Exclusive” Projects = Angry Locals
Koh Phangan entrepreneurs cannot forget to include locals and local culture as part of its future tourism . Development must not mirror the walled in “all-exclusive” disasters of Phuket, Samui, etc. where locals do not actively mix with tourists and exchange culture, ideas and memories. Walling out locales is the fastest way to create resentment toward tourists who traveled all the way to meet and know them.
Despite these pitfalls, having resided five years on the island and still a regular visitor, I do believe fiercely in Koh Phangan’s potential. I will outline my suggested solutions to the possible issues above as well as WHY I am betting on Koh Phangan, in future posts.
Interesting read: What Will the Tourist Be doing in 2030?
Related post: Food is the Attraction: Culinary Tourism
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