Over the past decade tourism in Phuket has experienced a number of damaging events, from the tsunami through political crises to international financial turmoil, all of which have affected tourism. Throughout these events, despite being the largest economic force for the province, the tourism private sector has had no single voice for speaking to the government, to members of the industry and to the media.

This is the aim of the newly-formed Phuket Hotels Association (PHA), which will officially come into being on Sunday (March 1). The PHA is based loosely on the example of the Bali Hotels Association, which took a leading role in reviving that island’s fortunes after the massive terrorist bombing of 2002.

The formation of the PHA has been spearheaded by Bill Barnett of C9 Hotelworks.

In 2015, he explained at the inaugural meeting on February 16 at the Trisara Academy, challenges to the industry are enormous, ranging from the massive decline of the Russian ruble, to Thai Airways’ financial difficulties – which are seeing a shrinking of routes – and continuing geopolitical events both in Thailand and abroad.

“Nearby destinations such as Krabi and Phang Nga are also directly benefitting from the island’s flight capacity. As media around the globe jump on the negative press bandwagon, what can the private sector do?” he asked.

Putting his money where his mouth is, Mr Barnett has pledged to provide one full-time staff member in his own offices, along with working space and a separate registered office for the organization.

Anthony Lark of Montara Hospitality Group is to be director of the PHA while Michael Ayling of Royal Phuket Marina is to be treasurer. David Keen from Quo in Bangkok has agreed to work on the destination marketing initiative for a new Phuket-centered brand.

Well known hotelier Bill Black, President of Montara, is to head up a hospitality education initiative. The PHA will hold monthly meetings at member-hotels, in rotation. Only hotel GMs or owners are eligible to be members, Mr Barnett said, as this has proved an effective practice in Bali.

Looking at initiatives in 2015, the key result aims of the PHA are:

Government liaison – to establish a continuous dialog between the Phuket government and the PHA.

Branding – create a common campaign to revitalise Phuket as a brand, led by the private sector.

Education – to create a platform for training and upgrading of service skills in Phuket for the industry.

Create a shared information database for hotels and, in the case of crisis, a single voice to communicate with the media, the industry and the local community. Mr Barnett said he does not believe this is too high-minded. Given an island with this much brand penetration, and considerable hotel marketing ability, he says, coming together is possible.

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