PHUKET: The provincial government, having attempted to solve the problems of aggressive tuk-tuk and jet-ski operators, is now gearing up to tackle another problem for tourists: timeshare
An initial meeting was held yesterday (June 23) at Provincial Hall to address the problem.
Discussion was held around the many abuses that are occurring within the timeshare
industry: aggressive timeshare
companies that send irritating touts onto the streets to bother tourists; timeshare
operations that masquerade as tour companies; bogus timeshare
companies that simply cheat tourists; and the touts themselves, or outside public contacts (OPCs) as they are known in the trade.
The crackdown follows the receipt of increasing numbers of complaints to Patong Municipality from tourists irritated by persistent touts or victims of fraud by timeshare
At the meeting Chairat Sukaban, Deputy Mayor of Patong, said most of the illegal timeshare
offices seem to be in Patong.
“We have been battling with illegal timeshare
for almost seven years,” Mr Chairat said. “But we’re not even close to solving it. It time’s to take more serious action.”
Nopadon Ployyoodee, the chief of the Phuket Employment Office (PEO), reported there are an astonishing 143 timeshare
companies registered with the PEO. He added that 641 infractions of the law governing timeshare
touts and fraud had been reported in recent years. Two companies were caught sending OPCs out into the streets to pursue tourist on public sidewalks.
“The PEO allows tour operators to approach tourists both in their own offices and outside them,” Mr Nopadon explained. “Outside’ means a company can set up a booth at a specific point and sales people can work on the sidewalk there.”Timeshare
companies, he said, are bound by the same rules. “A company can’t send OPCs out to bother tourists on public roads. The rules are being bent out of shape.”
Weerawit Krueasombat, the chairman of Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) estimated that around 10,000 people are involved in the timeshare
industry in Phuket, and alleged that a billion baht a year was being removed from Phuket’s economy and going to foreign-controlled timeshare
operations or fraudsters.
“In some cases, tourist have been accosted by timeshare
touts on arrival at the airport,” Mr Chairat said. On the streets, he said, “People who masquerade as staff from the Tourism Authority of Thailand ask the tourists to fill in ‘surveys’ with their thoughts on Thailand, and then follow up with nuisance calls to their hotel rooms.
“At present all we can do is fine OPCs B2,000 if we catch them annoying tourists in public. They pay up immediately. You can’t imagine how much money they can earn every day; when compared with that, the fines are negligible.” OPCs get paid cash for every prospect they persuade to step into the timeshare
Pol Capt Siramate Tanapansiri of Phuket Tourist Police suggested, “We also have to control the reopening of fake timeshare
companies. When a bogus timeshare
office gets enough money, it will be closed by its owner, who will then open a new office [under a new name], leaving no trace for defrauded tourists.
“The illegal timeshare
industry is growing rapidly in Phuket. We won’t be able to control if we don’t control it at the beginning of the process – company registration.”
At the meeting it was decided that the PEO will examine every timeshare
company registration and send details to the police so they can check for abuses.
The PEBA’s chairman Mr Weerawit also brought up another point: “We have to solve this problem before implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.”
The AEC will, for one thing, allow nationals of the 10 Asean countries to work in other Asean countries.
“Otherwise,” Mr Weerawit said, “there will be more workers from aboard getting involved with this dark business. If that happens, Phuket will be totally ruined.”