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Many travelers assume that travel activities have the same professional standards as back home. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the saying goes, "In Asia, life is cheap."

Fact is, few Asians even know how to swim, and only fishermen go to sea. But when it comes to making money around an island paradise such as Phuket, businesspeople don't hesitate sending untrained staff who can't even swim into kayaks or speedboats. That's because they don't have the pride - or courage - to actually go on their won trips and look their paying guests in the eye..

In a lifetime on and in the ocean, I've learned to respect and almost fear the sea. Every recreational disaster I've witnessed, prevented or studied starts with a lack of respect for the sea - sometimes due to inexperience, but more often sue to flippant attitudes.

That's why I've promoted professional standards since I came to Thailand, but outside John Gray's SeaCanoe and a few ultra-high end boating companies, only lip-service prevails. Training and actually producing a credible trip costs money, so why bother? This is Asia.

There are regular fatalities in the water sports industry, but regulations - of any - are ignored in the "Land of the Free". This all came home on Loi Kratong 2005 when, as last man in our group, I paddled out of a Hong to escape a large, noisy mob from a company whose owner I have never seen in the Bay, let alone a kayak. Ten minutes later, one of his guides had an epileptic seizure. Without any First Aid/CPR training, his fellow guides did everything wrong and the guide died.

I fault the owner, not his staff.

When I suggested First Aid/CPP, he laughed it off.

To my surprise, at the next high season, hotel tour counters showed me his First Aid Training Credentials. In a Hong, I congratulated his staff. They just laughed and told me they still had no training - the owner just bought the credential from a corrupt doctor.

That's almost as bad as the company that still displays the decade-old awards the JGSC guide team and yours truly won in spite of (definitely not because of) the folks who still display them.

The result is this slide show section. In a market where credentials are bought, paperwork is meaningless. The only way to guarantee credibility is with photo and video documentation, so here it is. We started photo-documenting our training at this year's First Aid/CPR training at Mission Hospital, where credentials cannot be bought. As we progress through our other staff training, we will continue to add slide shows to prove accountability.

I hope this starts a trend, with other companies having the courage to train their staff, with the photographic evidence to prove it.

Don't hold your breath.

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©2005 John Gray Sea Canoe Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.
124 Soi 1 Yaowarat Rd., Taladyai, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Tel. (66-76) 254505-7 | Fax: (66-76) 226077
E-mail: info@johngrayseacanoevietnam.com