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Sealed tours urgent to save Phuket’s dive industry


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1 hour ago, 2long said:

A great idea but for some quite obvious flaws.

- To be a proper quarantine, each liveaboard cruise would need to start on the same day for all arriving guests. This won't be easy as people often want to arrange their flights around work and budget.

- To be a proper quarantine, wouldn't the staff and crew need to isolate between trips, to ensure that they are 'clean' for the next batch of tourists? That'd make it hard for them to visit family or earn any money.

- Not many cruises are 7 days long. A typical Similan trip is 4-5 days, and south Andaman trips 2-3 days. Oh, but how about combining the trips to make a week, I hear you ask? That's a great idea, but fuel costs are huge.

I hate to be that damp squib, but this idea won't work easily... even if the boat operators and agents could somehow magically agree on deals, commission cabin & staff allocation and logistics.

you nailed it :0

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3 hours ago, digibum said:

The market was over saturated and needs to think longer term instead of how to survive because there are 100 competitors who will steal their business if they try to be responsible operators

I think with the lack of diving tourists that will take care of itself, dive shops have hung around for 18 months hoping things would suddenly return to the good old days, that clearly isn't going to happen.

The smaller businesses will go under for sure.

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2 hours ago, hotchilli said:

I think with the lack of diving tourists that will take care of itself, dive shops have hung around for 18 months hoping things would suddenly return to the good old days, that clearly isn't going to happen.

The smaller businesses will go under for sure.

That should be good for the larger operators that survive.   Hopefully.  

Not that I’m happy people will lose their businesses or anything, but the last 10 or 15 years of tourism growth have been a total free for all with everyone rushing in to make a quick buck.  

A market contraction with less shops servicing more customers would be a much healthier environment for everyone from the operator, to the customer, to the environment.  
 

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9 minutes ago, Pattaya Spotter said:

Have you been to Phuket anytime within the past 18 months...

Uhm, yes, I live here.  
 

And if you read what I wrote, I suggested that pre-Covid the industry acted in an irresponsible manner.  
 

Are you suggesting that if an industry employs enough Thai people it should be able to destroy the environment?  
 

If not, I don’t see your point.  
 

The more rinkydink operators that go out of business, the more consolidation to fewer dive operators who can actually try and protect their future by offering environmentally ethical diving.   

As I mentioned, Maya Bay is a good example.  It’s just been so abused by so many different tour operators for so long that the government had to shut it down for several years just so it could come back to life.   
 

In many other places, the dive operators do this themselves.  They realize that if the reefs die, so does their livelihood.  
 

But in Thailand, with a dive shop on every corner, and margins already cut to next to nothing, there’s little incentive for anybody to take the long term view.  

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10 hours ago, 2long said:

A great idea but for some quite obvious flaws.

- To be a proper quarantine, each liveaboard cruise would need to start on the same day for all arriving guests. This won't be easy as people often want to arrange their flights around work and budget.

- To be a proper quarantine, wouldn't the staff and crew need to isolate between trips, to ensure that they are 'clean' for the next batch of tourists? That'd make it hard for them to visit family or earn any money.

- Not many cruises are 7 days long. A typical Similan trip is 4-5 days, and south Andaman trips 2-3 days. Oh, but how about combining the trips to make a week, I hear you ask? That's a great idea, but fuel costs are huge.

I hate to be that damp squib, but this idea won't work easily... even if the boat operators and agents could somehow magically agree on deals, commission cabin & staff allocation and logistics.

I think his proposal is that the liveaboard would be treated as a SHA+ accommodation.

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10 hours ago, digibum said:

Uhm, yes, I live here.  
 

And if you read what I wrote, I suggested that pre-Covid the industry acted in an irresponsible manner.  
 

Are you suggesting that if an industry employs enough Thai people it should be able to destroy the environment?  
 

If not, I don’t see your point.  
 

The more rinkydink operators that go out of business, the more consolidation to fewer dive operators who can actually try and protect their future by offering environmentally ethical diving.   

As I mentioned, Maya Bay is a good example.  It’s just been so abused by so many different tour operators for so long that the government had to shut it down for several years just so it could come back to life.   
 

In many other places, the dive operators do this themselves.  They realize that if the reefs die, so does their livelihood.  
 

But in Thailand, with a dive shop on every corner, and margins already cut to next to nothing, there’s little incentive for anybody to take the long term view.  

Well if live here you can see that there is no longer a dive shop on every corner or dozens of boats at the divesites every day. Nobody supports responsible ocean conservation more than almost all scuba divers (business owners/investors are another matter). There were/are certainly problematic aspects to the industry pre-Covid but this was from its popularity and often lack of adequate government regulation. Mass group tourism from certain countries didn't help matters. However, this isn't the way to cure the industry's problems. (But the diving has been the best in years.)

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8 hours ago, stevenl said:

I think his proposal is that the liveaboard would be treated as a SHA+ accommodation.

Yes Steven, I realised that. But as I mentioned, each trip would need to be 7 days long AND fit in with the arrival flights of enough guests to make it worth sailing. Then consider that most boats use shared bathrooms at some stage. It won't be easy to accommodate everyone or enough people happily and safely, while returning a profit or even break even. Sad, but I feel true. But I would be more than happy to be wrong.

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3 hours ago, Pattaya Spotter said:

Well if live here you can see that there is no longer a dive shop on every corner or dozens of boats at the divesites every day. Nobody supports responsible ocean conservation more than almost all scuba divers (business owners/investors are another matter). There were/are certainly problematic aspects to the industry pre-Covid but this was from its popularity and often lack of adequate government regulation. Mass group tourism from certain countries didn't help matters. However, this isn't the way to cure the industry's problems. (But the diving has been the best in years.)


Actually, that’s not true.  The dive shops are still on every corner.  They’re just closed (most of them).  Which means, those businesses could rapidly reopen if they saw a sudden influx of tourism.  


The ones that remain open tend to be the ones with solid reputations with customers who have received constant bookings.  
 

But many of the little storefront dive shops that relied on foot traffic are closed.   
 

All I’m saying is that the world wouldn’t be such a bad place if things stayed like that for awhile.   
 

Let the landlords take the property back.  Let some of these PADI 5-Star Resorts with no training facilities, no equipment sales, running from a shophouse location, die.  
 

I really think you misunderstand what I’m getting at here.  
 

I want the good shops to survive and then thrive with less competition when this is all over.   
 

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3 hours ago, 2long said:

Yes Steven, I realised that. But as I mentioned, each trip would need to be 7 days long AND fit in with the arrival flights of enough guests to make it worth sailing. Then consider that most boats use shared bathrooms at some stage. It won't be easy to accommodate everyone or enough people happily and safely, while returning a profit or even break even. Sad, but I feel true. But I would be more than happy to be wrong.

I think you're wrong there. You can stay in a SHA+ hotel for 4 days, so why not on a boat for 4 days? It wouldn't have to fit exactly with the arrival schedules, since customers could stay in a SHA+ hotel for as many nights as required before and/or after the trip. Some liveaboards use shared bathrooms, most don't these days, and even if they do, the result of research into plane travel is that bathrooms are a tiny risk. Your latter argument, making a profit, is again no different from the SHA+ hotels.

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1 hour ago, digibum said:


Actually, that’s not true.  The dive shops are still on every corner.  They’re just closed (most of them).  Which means, those businesses could rapidly reopen if they saw a sudden influx of tourism.  


The ones that remain open tend to be the ones with solid reputations with customers who have received constant bookings.  
 

But many of the little storefront dive shops that relied on foot traffic are closed.   
 

All I’m saying is that the world wouldn’t be such a bad place if things stayed like that for awhile.   
 

Let the landlords take the property back.  Let some of these PADI 5-Star Resorts with no training facilities, no equipment sales, running from a shophouse location, die.  
 

I really think you misunderstand what I’m getting at here.  
 

I want the good shops to survive and then thrive with less competition when this is all over.   
 

There were never dive shops on every corner, even in Patong, and like I said, there are maybe 2-3 diving related entities operating there now. Nothing is open in Karon and a few are open in Kata and Rawai. Chalong, being the base of the industry and the boat launch pier, has a few more. Also, your example of what happened with Maya Bay is inopposite to your argument because it never was a scuba diving site. It was made famous by a certain movie, and became a stop for thousands of day-trippers and snorkelers who wanted their Insta-moment at the iconic spot. I agree that during the "good times," there was some market over-saturation, which was the case for many tourist facing businesses...but the cheer the savage closures that have been caused by Covid around the island is a bit harsh.

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1 hour ago, digibum said:

<snip>

 

But many of the little storefront dive shops that relied on foot traffic are closed.   
 

All I’m saying is that the world wouldn’t be such a bad place if things stayed like that for awhile.   
 

Let the landlords take the property back.  Let some of these PADI 5-Star Resorts with no training facilities, no equipment sales, running from a shophouse location, die.  
 

I really think you misunderstand what I’m getting at here.  
 

I want the good shops to survive and then thrive with less competition when this is all over.   
 

On the whole island there were just a couple of shops relying on foot traffic, that died about 10 years ago.

 

Why would landlords take property back when they'd get no rent after doing that?

 

Hardly any legal shops running without training facilities and equipment sales.

 

Let the good shops survive? I can tell you good shops that have died while others not training very well courses are surviving. I would agree with you that it would be good if the good shops survived and not the bad ones, but reality is showing something different. Survival so far has been customer based: the ones relying on western tourism have had a hard time/are dead or dying, ones also having domestic tourism or Phuket expats as customers are the ones that survived. And that has nothing at all to do with quality offered.

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54 minutes ago, stevenl said:

I think you're wrong there. You can stay in a SHA+ hotel for 4 days, so why not on a boat for 4 days? It wouldn't have to fit exactly with the arrival schedules, since customers could stay in a SHA+ hotel for as many nights as required before and/or after the trip. Some liveaboards use shared bathrooms, most don't these days, and even if they do, the result of research into plane travel is that bathrooms are a tiny risk. Your latter argument, making a profit, is again no different from the SHA+ hotels.

If 4 days, and not immediately after arrival, then yes it could work.

But let's hope the place is open properly by November anyway. 🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻

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11 hours ago, Pattaya Spotter said:

There were never dive shops on every corner, even in Patong, and like I said, there are maybe 2-3 diving related entities operating there now. Nothing is open in Karon and a few are open in Kata and Rawai. Chalong, being the base of the industry and the boat launch pier, has a few more. Also, your example of what happened with Maya Bay is inopposite to your argument because it never was a scuba diving site. It was made famous by a certain movie, and became a stop for thousands of day-trippers and snorkelers who wanted their Insta-moment at the iconic spot. I agree that during the "good times," there was some market over-saturation, which was the case for many tourist facing businesses...but the cheer the savage closures that have been caused by Covid around the island is a bit harsh.

First off, I’m in Rawai right now, not exactly a tourist Mecca, and there are six dive shops (only two currently operating) within a 1km radius of me that I can think of off the top of my head.  There could be more.  
 

Obviously, I did not mean “on every corner” literally, but given the fact that in Los Angeles, which has a very active dive community, there are only 6 dive shops in a 20 mile radius, Phuket seems grossly over saturated.   
 

And again, you are being too literal in your thinking regarding Maya Bay.  I used it as an example of tourism ruining a ecosystem.  I didn’t say divers ruined it.  
 

Last time I went to Maya Bay, it was so packed with tourists it was ridiculous.  You can’t do that 365 days a year and expect any ecosystem to survive.  
 

Same with diving.  My first dive experience in Phuket was almost 20 years ago.  Today, it’s trash compared to then even and back then, people were already complaining about how bad it was compared to years prior.  
 

Honestly, even 20 years ago, Thailand’s diving was mediocre at best.  I’ve seen more healthy coral on one dive in the Caribbean than I saw in 10 days of diving back then. 
 

The only redeeming factor on that trip was that it was my first time seeing Clown Fish.  
 

Bottom line is that if the diving industry OR the tourism industry continues to head down this path of not caring about the ecosystem, in 10 or 20 or ?? years it’ll be so bad there’s no dive industry or eco tourism industry.  
 

Then there will be no dive shops because nobody will care about diving in Thailand.   
 

And I’m not cheering it anymore than one would cheer any reversal in a catastrophe.
 

It’s like saying, “Oh you’re cheering the lost jobs in the oil and gas industry because you advocate for renewable energy.”   
 

No, I’m cheering the fact that maybe maybe we won’t be choking on air so thick with pollutants that you can see it or that maybe people won’t lose their homes or die due to climate change.  

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6 hours ago, digibum said:

First off, I’m in Rawai right now, not exactly a tourist Mecca, and there are six dive shops (only two currently operating) within a 1km radius of me that I can think of off the top of my head.  There could be more.  

You keep mentioning being in Phuket...so am I (Chalong now...Rawai a few months ago...also a week in Patong)...so we both have the same baseline for our opinions. So using your numbers, 70% of the dive shops you know of in Rawai are temporarily or permanently closed.

 

6 hours ago, digibum said:

Obviously, I did not mean “on every corner” literally, but given the fact that in Los Angeles, which has a very active dive community, there are only 6 dive shops in a 20 mile radius, Phuket seems grossly over saturated.

You mentioned a dive shop on every corner two times in separate posts so maybe this could be your belief and not just a "figure of speech." There may be an active group of divers in Los Angeles but I doubt there is much diving actually done there.  In fact, in over 20 years of active scuba diving, I've never seen L.A. listed on any top diving location list...I have met plenty of divers from Los Angeles/Southern California diving in Phuket. Maybe that's why there are more diving shops in Phuket than Los Angeles?

 

6 hours ago, digibum said:

Same with diving.  My first dive experience in Phuket was almost 20 years ago.  Today, it’s trash compared to then even and back then, people were already complaining about how bad it was compared to years prior.  
 

Honestly, even 20 years ago, Thailand’s diving was mediocre at best.  I’ve seen more healthy coral on one dive in the Caribbean than I saw in 10 days of diving back then.

Curiously so was mine...but in Ko Tao...Phuket had to wait for another year or two. Yes, and I'm sure the "old timers" of 20 years ago were sayingmthe diving was "trash" then compared to twenty years before. That's the problem with su h a line of argument...whenever any tourist destination is discovered, it enevitably changes, and usually not for the better. 

 

7 hours ago, digibum said:

Bottom line is that if the diving industry OR the tourism industry continues to head down this path of not caring about the ecosystem, in 10 or 20 or ?? years it’ll be so bad there’s no dive industry or eco tourism industry.  

I agree there should be better management of Thailand's natural beauty and resources in general, and marine ecosystem in particular. However, there are many stakeholders involved, including extractive ones, who have a legitimate seat at the table. Thailand, being a lower-income developing country, also has relatively weak government and regulatory enforcement regime. We can hope that when things return to normal, the country will continue to take steps to improve its record of protecting the natural environment (but I'm not that sanguine about it).

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