Prasong Suanchai would usually be gearing up for the high season, waiting for tourists from across the globe to flock to Thailand’s most popular holiday island. This year, the Phuket boat operator has had to resort to old ways.
“For generations, the men in my family have been fishermen,” says the 34-year-old. “I was fishing since a young boy, but it was getting hard. There were less fish and less money for what we caught. It was difficult to provide for my family.” Nevertheless, he is again fishing for a living.
In 2008, Suanchai started to operate snorkelling and island- and beach-hopping cruises. His charisma and self-taught language skills earned him a good reputation and his business expanded from one boat to six, employing 24 crew.
However, as the coronavirus closed down the world and its economies, Phuket found itself in peril. Suanchai suspended operations in April. “Even when the island came out of lockdown and locals started visiting, it was not worth me starting again,” he says. “I knew I could not make enough money.”