The Winds of Change
No one could have foreseen the abrupt changes to Phuket’s shoreline that have swept almost tsunami-like over the beaches in the last few months and most are still feeling the aftershocks. We have had more than a few clients email and even call us to enquire on the status of their favourite beach clubs or restaurants, asking what and why this or that has happened. These enquiries require a reasonably long and repetitive explanation whether by email or on the phone. Repetitive or not, an explanation is needed to understand all that is happening and changing in Phuket.
One of the main questions asked is, with all that is happening on the beaches, will these changes affect the value of owners’ property in Phuket? Let’s be clear; the eviction of businesses encroaching on public land will not have any bearing on a property’s value but what will change is the convenience of having such facilities and amenities close to their property. It should be noted that just shops and restaurants on the beach are affected and that other businesses not on the actual beach are operating as per normal.
All beaches in Phuket, as well as in Thailand, are public land – and thus for the use and benefit of the people. Previously existing shops, restaurants, beach clubs, and massage shops that were encroaching on public land have now been voluntarily dismantled by the owners or effectively been removed by the authorities.
Will these businesses ever return to the beaches? It’s very difficult to say… if they ever do we hope they come back in an orderly and well-planned manner, offering tourists and locals alike a clean, affordable, and good standard of beach environment acceptable to all. If they don’t come back to the beaches, it is very likely that they will be set up in a nearby location.
No doubt many visitors to Phuket this high season will be surprised or even astonished when they head out to their favourite beach to sunbathe or to a beach club to chill out, only to find that there are no longer any sun beds, umbrellas, massage shops and beach clubs, as there were last high season. Yes, it’s all gone and yes again, it’s the same beach that you were on last year.
Many people who worked the beaches have been displaced by the current cleanup. The beach boys, shop vendors, masseurs, waiters, cooks, and all those who made a living on the beach are now effectively jobless. This is a very serious problem and the local municipal and labour department is conducting retraining and job replacement for those recently inconvenienced workers. They are also looking to relocate shops and vendors to designated areas in order to help them continue doing business.
Those who live here and those who love to visit Phuket to enjoy the island’s beaches, sun, sand, and people all want clean and beautiful beaches, not only in our lifetimes but also for our children and grandchildren. To many people, this may not be seen as a big step and yet some are sceptical about how far or how long this will last, but for now it’s time for change. There are many reasons to come to Phuket and one of the top reasons is to enjoy the island’s beaches. If we can’t keep them clean and safe for all to enjoy then there will not be much going for Phuket in years to come.