This week another Australian tourist died while on holiday on Thailand.
The 65-year-old woman was swimming at Kamala Beach on Phuket’s west coast when she was swept away.
Our hearts went out to Roger Hussey, the Perth man who fell 70 metres to his death in a parasailing accident, also in Phuket, in July.
Soon after, we heard of the father and son killed in a swimming pool electrocution. Go with caution to a grisly site called farang-deaths.com and you’ll find an endless parade of Australians who have died largely from motor accidents, and a disturbing number falling or jumping from balconies.
Plenty of others die in bed, mainly middle-aged men, presumably after a hell of a night.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Consular State of Play 2015-2016 (latest published figures), 205 Australians died in Thailand, up from 145 the previous year – and twice as many as the next most fatal destinations, the Philippines (124) and Indonesia (105).
The US (78, up from 44) and Vietnam (77, on the decline) round out the top five.
DFAT makes the point that the deaths generally reflect the high rate of travel to these destinations, rather than any inherent lethality of the tourist spots.
However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2015 international movement figures, Thailand was ranked fifth as to where Australians travelled. The rankings are as follows:
- New Zealand: 1.2 million Australian visitors
- Indonesia: 1.1 million
- United States of America: 980,800
- UK: 552,000
- Thailand: 549,000
And consider this: when Traveller.com.au reviewed its top destinations for 2015 (as searched for on the site), Thailand didn’t even come into the top 20. It named Vietnam as the new Thailand, probably because it’s safer and considered less sleazy.
The year 2015 appears to be when Thailand officially went on the nose, with a 10 per cent drop in tourism as its reputation for being the world’s hottest spot to die, or end up hospitalised, was cemented after a series of highly-publicised deaths.
They included falls from a waterfall, murder and poisoning from a herb prescribed to cure drug addiction.
At that time, Australian Federation of Travel Agents CEO Jayson Westbury reportedly suggested safety concerns and political unrest contributed to the Aussie-Thai downturn. Since then, as Indonesia and the Philippines have become more popular, the death rates there are climbing.
DFAT’s Smart Traveller website provides a traffic-light scale of warnings. For example, Thailand and the Philippines are given a mixed yellow and red signal. Meaning there are parts of the country you must not visit, while maintaining a “high degree of caution” for the rest of the country.
That a once-favourite, and purportedly easy-going destination such as Thailand should now rank with such a long-time basket case of a nation is in fact, to an extent, the way of the changing world.
Visitors to France now are also urged to maintain a high degree of caution due to the frequency and threat of terror attacks. London and Spain, which have also suffered recent attacks, are still given the green light – meaning exercising normal caution is required. For the moment.