Illegal timeshare companies in Phuket are facing a bleak fate as Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha has assembled a powerful dedicated task force to close upon timeshare operators on the island using bait and switch or other similar illicit tactics to extort as much as a billion baht from tourists falling into their traps.
According to Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak, “the Governor has really declared war against timeshare companies, asking for updates on progress every fifteen days. He intends to also unmask any government officials involved in the business.”
“More than a billion baht can be earned and apparently sent abroad mostly by one such business. In addition to the big money involved, the business seems to have developed into a full-scale Mafia”, said Phuket Provincial Employment Office chief Noppadol Ployudee. He also added that despite requesting and receiving permission to install boots in order to advertise their products, some timeshare companies chose to send their employees out on motorcycles to attract clients.
Weerawit Kuresombut, President of the Entertainment Association in Patong, stated that “employees drive around town handing tourists lottery tickets. They subsequently announce them that they won, asking them to head to their headquarters in order to receive their prizes, but instead attempt to sell them timeshare products once there. Such companies, which would actually be very useful should they obey the laws, have been negatively impacting the local tourism industry for more than five years through their unfair tactics.”
Mr. Chairat Sukkaban, Patong Deputy Mayor, added that most of the tourist complaints regarding timeshare companies are received via the Patong Municipality website. He stated that employees of such illegal firms ask tourists on the beaches to provide personal information on forms they hand out, which sometimes even have the Tourism Authority of Thailand logo despite no authorization, then harass those people who do continuously with phone calls once they go back to their hotels. “Tens of thousands of tourists can fall victim to the staff of such companies, spending between 300,000 and even a million baht each. A single staff member can earn as much as 100,000 baht even during the low season, while the companies themselves can trick people into giving them a total of 10 million euros or more.”
However, the issue of fake logos is not specific only to Patong, according to Buayan Suwanmanee, Phuket Office of Tourism and Sports Director: “We received a complaint from a tourist who had been given a form bearing the TAT logo – which, according to the form, stood for the Tourism Association of Thailand rather than the Tourism Authority of Thailand, a fact of which he had not been made aware – as soon as he arrived at the airport. After getting to his hotel, the man was being harassed via continuous telephone calls by someone speaking his native language. The tourist stated that no other business had pushed him around in this fashion when he visited Chiang Mai.”
The first measure the newly-formed task force will take towards solving the issues will be a full-scale investigation of all the 142 registered timeshare operators on Phuket. The subsequent actions will be discussed in a new meeting held afterwards, according to Vice Governor Sangkaosutthirak, who also joked that the committee members might require bulletproof vests for this action.