So as the summer sun began to rise, the fire began to die, and the bees began to circle overhead, the two men spoke of days from their childhoods when the wagon wheels rattled in the road, and the dragonflies skimmed the grass, and the apple trees blossomed for as far as the eye could see. – A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
The Moodie Davitt Report is operating out of not one but two interim Thai bureaux this week.
The Moodie part of the partnership is in the sleepy fishing town of Rawai, Phuket while the Davitt component is in the rather more hectic capital city, Bangkok.
Rawai is a lovely place to recharge one’s batteries, although inevitably given the around the clock responsibilities of owning (and running) ‘the website that never sleeps’, a fair proportion of my time is spent inside my hotel room on the laptop, overlooking the pool rather than being in it.
However, it’s a wonder what this beautiful place does for the soul. I’ve caught up with three old friends from New Zealand, a welcome reminder of my roots – the chance to “speak of days from our childhoods when… the dragonflies skimmed the grass” as Amor Towles’ tragi-comic novel has it – and a timely counterbalance to the stress build-up that has reached top of the barrel levels.
Top of the barrel does not apply to tourism figures in Phuket this year. After a record 2018, Thai tourist arrivals have slumped this year (June was down 20-30% in Phuket). What local commentators are describing as “a perfect storm” has hit – intense competition from rival Asian tourist destinations, a high Thai Baht, the worsening US-China trade wars (the Chinese accounted for over one-third of tourism arrivals last year) and the sustained adverse publicity from the Phuket boat tragedy in July 2018 when 46 Chinese tourists drowned after two boats capsized in a storm. Ongoing criticism that safety concerns of tourists have not been sufficiently addressed has been exacerbated by several drownings at popular Phuket beaches in recent weeks.
In the age of social media, bad news – and bad reviews – travel fast. Phuket is a beautiful place of wonder but nature alone does not always triumph in the brutal battle for the tourist dollar.