Tourists must put safety first, not thrill
Editor's note: By Wednesday, the death toll in the twin-ferry tragedy off Phuket Island in Thailand had risen to 47. The two ferries were carrying Chinese tourists when they capsized in the rough sea on July 5. Two experts share their views with China Daily's Zhang Zhouxiang on how to ensure Chinese tourists' safety overseas. Excerpts follow:
Thai authorities can't shirk responsibility
Liu Simin, vice-president of tourism at Beijing-based Chinese Society for Future Studies
Some media outlets quoted Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defense minister of Thailand, as saying a Chinese national could be the owner of the travel agency "responsible" for the tragedy and provided inexpensive tourist services for Chinese groups. This is a provocative and irresponsible statement. And although he apologized on Tuesday for his remark, it's high time the Thai tourism and security authorities reflected on how to ensure the safety of tourists.
Since the official investigation into the incident is yet to conclude, it would be inappropriate to judge the veracity of Wongsuwan's claims. But even if what he said is true, the Thai government cannot shirk its responsibility for guaranteeing the safety and security of tourists.
Wongsuwan was also quoted as saying the two ferries insisted on sailing out to the sea despite warnings from the local weather station not to do so. If that is true, it only reflects the poor tourism management of the local authorities. The officials managing the ferry piers could have halted all operations, so that no ferry could set sail.
Other media reports show the two ferries were not the only ones to sail on that fateful day after the weather warning was issued－the other ferries were simply "lucky" not to meet with an accident.
The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 of the World Economic Forum ranked Thailand 118th in terms of safety and security among the 136 economies surveyed. The report also said the World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts that Thailand will be one of the 10 fastest growing destinations for leisure-travel spending in the near future.
As a country that relies heavily on its tourism industry, Thailand needs to do much more to guarantee the safety and security of tourists.