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Wait, Watch and Listen

Category: , Posted:12 Aug 2011 | 11:12 am

Thailand's elections have come and gone in what seems to be the blink of an eye.
Perhaps my digital clock has been stuck in slow-motion mode.
Dare we hope that the last few years of sleepwalking on economic policy and reforms are coming to an end? Or are we in for another round of Michael-Jacksonesque moon walking? (Remember those riveting music videos with Jacko sliding seamlessly from side to side?)
Watching it all happen brings to mind going to kindergarten, and our teacher drilling into our heads the correct method of crossing the street without joining the less remarkable splashes of road kill. Her slogan has stuck with me all these years: wait, watch and listen, before you cross the street.
It could be applied to the current state of play in the higher echelons of policy and promise.
Winning votes often comes down to the very basic approach of giving the people what they want. Unfortunately this is not always what they need, nor is it good for them.
A great debate is now brewing between the public and private sectors on the minimum wage, special autonomous regions in the troubled South and a slew of other election promises.
For Phuket, where tourism remains a vital life force for economic prosperity, the ongoing cycle of Bangkok implementing higher salaries has already created considerable hyperinflation. Hotel owners are seeing returns erode as costs spiral up and up.
Attracting foreign investment into the housing market is now being hampered by a sharp rise in the island's cost of living. The competitive edge that once existed is being rapidly eroded.
Many eyes remain fixed on the development of the Mai Khao International Convention and Exhibition Centre, where weeds are the only things growing on the site and construction cranes are nowhere to be seen. When will the project start? This has become a rallying cry in hotel-business planning circles.
There is no "one size fits all" in business and there is hope that Yingluck Shinawatra will bring a burst of fresh air to clear the smoke that obscures so much of our present outlook.
Perhaps one of the most relevant debates for tourism in Thailand is that concerning gaming. We've seen its impact on Macau and Singapore. Nearby, Vietnam has two mega projects – the MGM Grand on the Ho Tram Strip close to Ho Chi Minh City and a new joint venture development south of Da Nang, with Malaysia's Resorts World.
As the face of travel in the post global-financial-crisis world changes and Asians begin taking a lion's share of the market, how can this country continue to let both its own citizens and those of its neighbours take their money to nearby gaming countries and not consider a planned and sustainable strategy for the sector?
Mass tourism needs demand generators, and in a country gone mad building new hotel rooms over the past five years, there has to be greater reasons to visit Thailand than shopping and beaches.
For now, though, we must embrace our inner child and patiently wait, watch and listen.

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