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A Little Doomsday Trick or Treat

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Phuket Gazette. Posted: 27th Oct 2012

Imagine a nuked out alien landscape with the smoking ruins of civilization smoldering like the burned out butt of a cigarette in some oversized kid's sandbox. The only sign of life is a typical American family of four standing in a prayer circle with gas masks on.

I never quite got the fourplex multiplier, but let's face it, five is an odd number and three means...no backup. If one kid is a bad apple then the entire genetic code fails. Whenever friends have their first child, my first advice is that they should plan for one more. Just in case.

But back to the total destruction of life as we know it. I've just had a late night reality television fest with the ironically titled Doomsday Preppers. As in all great true tube life, it's too strange to even make this stuff up and obviously must be real.

Here in Phuket we have our own doomsday cult. These are the ones who hunker down over dimly lit computer screens or perhaps tap away on aged cracked keyboards to the tune of a different piper.

Last week they were out in full force after the announcement that the island's much beleaguered International Convention and Exhibition Center had been thrust into the dumpster - head first.

The past few days have had me doing the two-step shuffle to Bangkok, trying to get to the root of this story, which is perplexing to say the least. It started when sources quoted MP Anchalee Vanich Teepabutr's comments on her Facebook page. (Note to self, please friend Khun Anchalee.) All in all, by the sheer volume of news stories, it does appear that the ICEC up in Mai Khao has been dunked into the Andaman Sea like the stalker in Fatal Attraction. I'd have expected a collective high five from the sea turtle community or at least a round of applause. What a great line: "On a clear day you can almost hear the sound of clapping turtles in the distance".

This could be an Out of Africa sequel but only to the soundtrack of Downtown Abbey and one of those English narrators who was left out in the cold waiting for the 'Remains of the Day'.

Digging down deep through online stories I could not help but read the comments about the doomed convention center.

Vents, rants and raves that ran the whole prayer circle from good riddance, to move it to Chiang Mai, or else all those usual suspects - corruption, greed, overdevelopment and garbage disposal.

Suddenly the turtles had been silenced.

The posters came up with the same old sorry blame game that has become a broken record of island life - what we can't do and why we shouldn't do anything.

Let's all sit in our bomb shelters and wait for the apocalypse.

Last chance visitors who missed the opportunity to jump into the last time machine back into the days of future passed.

Frankly speaking, I never quite understood the choice of location to have the convention center anyway.

Phuket has around 43,000 registered hotel rooms, and approximately 1,000 of these are in the northern tip of the island.

Though certainly the plan made a lot more sense than sticking it on the other side of Phuket City, which often requires an overnight case and passport for travellers to get to. Let's just say the Mai Khao plan was forward thinking.

Of course from a development plan, the catchment area for the center remains challenged.

Over the bridge the entire southwest of Phang Nga was zoned out a few years ago for a big hotel project and the last time I looked, there were only a few prime coastal hotel sites north of the airport.

So the answer was perhaps to bus them in. One thing that did continually crop up was a strangely lucid comment, with which I absolutely agree, the ill advised Phuket Gateway. The last time I looked online at Google Images under the term "White Elephant" this continued to rank up high.

In my own opinion, the island would benefit a lot from an international conference and exhibition center in a well-located strategic place that is accessible to a broad number of hotels and services. Hence it's a shame that cooler heads prevailed and the entire deal was shelved.

Its incredibly short sighted not to understand that the island must diversify its tourism market and that demand generators are required to fill the rooms already built. There is absolutely no point in crying over spilled milk, nor say we are already on the edge of economic ruin so let's pooh pooh any new infrastructure projects. We need mega government-sponsored investment into Phuket more than ever before.

For the detractor I'd say never look a gift horse in the mouth, and certainly know the difference between a trick or a treat.

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