Illegal hotels in Phuket get Jan 31 deadline to turn legal or close down, amid plans to upgrade the destination

Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, Thailand.
Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, Thailand. PHOTO: COMO HOTELS & RESORTS
A beach in Phuket, Thailand.
A beach in Phuket, Thailand. PHOTO: SILKAIR
The Nikki Beach Hotel & Spa Phuket in Thailand.
The Nikki Beach Hotel & Spa Phuket in Thailand. PHOTO: CASTLEWOOD GROUP

PHUKET, THAILAND - It is checkout time for the 1,366 hotels in Thailand's Phuket province which operate without hotel licences, as the authorities announce a Jan 31 deadline for these establishments.

Only 424 hotels on the resort island have licences, Thai newspaper The Nation reported on Monday (Dec 12).

Phuket Governor Chokchai Dejamornthan told the Bangkok Post on Monday that the operators "still have time to notify us that their hotels are illegally operated and show their intention that they are ready to go legal within January next year, otherwise we will shut down and prosecute them".

More than half of the illegally operated hotels are in Kathu district's Patong area, reported the Bangkok Post.

Illegally operated hotels are split into three categories: Hotels without licences, which are eligible to apply for licences; apartments and condominiums with construction permits and building opening certificates but without amenities required for hotel operation; and businesses without construction permits or building opening certificates.

Mr Chokchai told the Bangkok Post that illegal hotels that fail to register for legalisation by the deadline should submit their intention to do so and ask for a grace period, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"Illegal hotels pay no tax. They have no security systems and no insurance is provided for guests. Many of them have insufficient parking spaces and use public areas for their guests' parking which causes trouble to neighbours or those nearby," he said.

Mr Anthony Lark, general manager of the Trisara Phuket and president of the Phuket Hotels Association, told The Nation that the association, along with government bodies, were trying to build a positive image to atract more quality tourists, as Phuket now offers high-end products and services such as yachting, luxury hotels, cruises, and facilities for private jets.

Illegal hotels are a long-running problem in Thailand. In October this year, the Thai Hotels Association urged the government to keep up its crackdown on illegal hotel operators.

Governor Chokchai also seeks to develop the popular tourist destination's infrastructure, with plans for a taxi-boat service, tighter security, better clean water and energy sources as well as flood-prevention measures.

The taxi-boat service aim to link Phuket Airport with major tourist spots such as Patong and Surin beaches.

The governor told The Nation that this will help reduce traffic congestion on the island.

There are also plans to install closed-circuit TV cameras at Sarasin Bridge, the only road gateway between the province with the mainland, to enhance security.

The governor said that Phuket generates 700 billion baht (S$28 billion) for the Thai economy, making it the second-highest provincial contributor after Bangkok. As such, the island should be better developed to meet tourist demands.

"More tourists from around the globe are visiting Phuket, so it should have better facilities," he added.