PHUKET: Phuket International Airport officials have launched a campaign to carry out random drug tests on taxi drivers at the key tourist facility in hopes of having the airport declared a “white airport” and to build tourists’ confidence that they are getting a “clean” driver.
Drivers gathered in the airport’s international bus parking lot yesterday (July 18) for their tests.
Monchai Tanode, general manager of Phuket International Airport, presided over the opening ceremony of the campaign, which he explained was a collaboration between Airports Authority of Thailand (AoT) at the airport of Phuket with the tourist police, the police of Sakhu and the provincial office of transport of Phuket.
“The campaign aims to ensure the safety of tourists using taxis and buses at Phuket airport,” he said.
As part of the campaign, AoT Phuket staff will perform random urine tests on drivers at the airport. Drivers who test negative will receive a star sticker marked ‘White Airport’.
The sticker will also state the vehicle’s license plate number and driver’s name to deter divers who have not tested negative from trying to trick the system, Monchai said.
However, it was not made clear exactly what drugs drivers are being tested for, or what happens to drivers who test positive for drugs.
“In addition to creating safety and confidence in using a taxi service, the campaign also aims to prevent and deter people from exploiting tourists or visitors at Phuket airport,” said Mr Monchai.
Mr Monchai said passenger throughput at the airport was only around 30% of pre-pandemic levels, but noted that this was an improvement.
“Since the government canceled the Thailand Pass system, the number of tourists has increased by around 40-45%. The total is around 20,000 people per day, comprising around 12,000 domestic passengers and 8,000 international passengers per day,” he said.
The largest group of inbound visitors were “probably” those arriving from the Middle East, Mr Monchai said.
According to Phuket Immigration at the airport, 4,209 international arrivals landed in Phuket on Sunday July 17. From May 1 to July 17, the most popular nationalities among international visitors were from India (72,455), Australia (26,348), Singapore (25,974), the United Kingdom (16,143) and Malaysia (12,092).
“There are now around 90 to 100 domestic flights a day, both inbound and outbound. As for international flights, there are about 60 daily flights per day,” Monchai said.
“Before the COVID crisis, there were around 350 to 400 flights a day,” he said.
However, Mr Monchai noted, “there are still Indian airlines asking to add more flights to Phuket”.
“It is now expected that the tourist situation will improve accordingly, especially during the upcoming high season. [at the end of the year]“, Mr. Monchai said.
“It is expected that there will be 70-80% more tourists entering compared to the number of tourists who had arrived in Phuket before the COVID-19 pandemic,” he concluded.