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Amnesty Brings 1,000 Illegal Phuket Hotels Into The Fold

Phuket, Sat Feb 25 2017
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Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan revealed earlier this week that the amnesty for businesses that had previously been illegally offering tourist property rentals for periods of less than 30 days has encouraged more than 1,000 such venues to register their intention to become legal hotels.

The amnesty, which ended on Jan 31, was part of a government drive to clean up the illegal tourist property rental market. In March last year the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office marked only 376 registered hotels on the island, while Agoda boasted more than 2,400 short-term holiday property listings – leaving an estimated 84% of holiday rental properties on the island as openly trading illegally.

In January, Governor Chockchai said provincial authorities had identified 860 properties that were illegally operating as hotels. In his statement he said, “The time to register is up, and I will not extended the deadline anymore. A total of 1,007 venues have registered to become legal hotels. A further 200 venues said they would no longer offer rentals for periods of less than 30 days.

“If any operators still want to register to become legal hotels, they must apply individually and their application will be considered case by case” he added.

Governor Chockchai also clarified to the press previously any inaccurate figures concerning the number of illegal hotels that registered with provincial authorities under the amnesty. “The number of hotels that have registered to become legal is more than 1,000” he told the press at Provincial Hall this week. “I believe I said earlier that I said only 400 accommodation venues had registered. That number is incorrect and for that I apologise” he said.

Although Governor Chockchai did not explain the reason for the clarification, his comments come just one week after he denied allegations that provincial officials were taking bribes to allow illegal hotels to continue trading illegally. He also reiterated that allowing currently illegal hotels to become legal will take time.

“All venues that have applied to become legal must be checked. This will take time to check many documents and other supporting evidence for the application. There are several categories of hotels and the process involves many offices” he said.

Of note, the Ministry of Interior on August 19 last year issued a new regulation to make it easier for more property owners – especially condo owners – to obtain a hotel license. The regulation – called the Ministerial Regulation Prescribing Descriptions of Other Types of Building Used for a Hotel Business Operation 2016 under the Building Control Act (1979) – will remain in effect for five years.

However, it applies only to buildings that existed before it came into force and whose owners desire to use the property as a “hotel” as defined by the Hotel Act.

To further encourage short-term rental operators to register their properties as hotels, Governor Chockchai said his office had laid down four policies to be strictly upheld. “First, official conferences now must be held at legally registered hotels only, and second, officials must now stay at legal hotels only” he said.

“Third, illegal hotels will not receive any support or any form of promotion through government activities; and fourth, for any applications involving the property, such as applications for building permits to carry out renovations or extensions, the operators must present their hotel registration license before officials can accept the application.

Last week officials in Pattaya shut down 30 hotels for operating illegally. Bang Lamung District Chief Naris Niramaiwong said there were more than 1,000 hotels in Pattaya, but only 239 operated legally in line with the Hotel Act of 2004.

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