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This week the Samui Times caught up with Liam Smith of Koh Samui Boat Charters to find out how long he has been in the island, how he got involved with Boat Charters and what he did when he first arrived on these sunny shores.
Hi Liam, thanks for meeting with us. Let’s start by asking you where you come from and how long you have been here.
I am from Bridlington in the UK. I have been in Koh Samui for the last eleven years.
What brought you to Samui?
It was one of the last stops on my backpacking rout. I had just spent nine months in Australia and came to Thailand for three months. As soon as I came to Koh Samui I just fell in love with it. At the end of a fantastic three months visit I went back to the UK for seven months and then headed straight back out here.
I got straight into scuba diving, which is something that I really love. I took my Divemaster course and then started working for a guy called Mark who at the time owned a scuba diving company called Samui Scuba Adventure. While I was there I became an instructor and started to teach diving.
When and why did you leave Samui Scuba Adventure?
By 2004 as much as I loved diving in the gulf I wanted to see some other areas and get experience on other dive sites so I decided to head off to the Similans and I worked there for three months. I then headed towards Phi Phi and twelve hours after I arrived the Tsunami hit. Obviously this incident was devastating. Luckily I was out of harm’s way but the effect on the island was catastrophic. I came back to Samui for a short while and then decided to do a sort of “reverse year out” and headed back to the UK to catch up with friends and family.
What did you do when you came back?
I worked for a boat charter company. As much as I still loved diving I decided that teaching was no longer really for me and wanted to get involved with boat charters, and this was the perfect opportunity. Later on I decided that the boat charter aspect of island life was for me and when I met Mark we decided to join forces and create Samui Boat Charter.
What kind of fleet did you have then compared to now?
We started off with 2 speed boats. Two years later we started to invest in more vessels and today we have six speed boats of our own and we also charter yachts.
Do your boats go out every day?
In high season yes, they are all out every day. We take a lot of bookings from our office here in the Fisherman’s Village, our office at the Conrad hotel and of course there are many agents around the island selling our tours.
What sets you aside from other companies offering similar trips?
The quality and the standard of service that we offer our clients is our strength and we offer VIP tours. We very much saw a need in the market for a trip that was less hurried, less crowded and more exclusive, so we created VIP tours to the National Marine Park. We leave at 9am later on in the day than the regular tour, so there is no ‘crack of dawn’ start to the day. We only take fourteen guests, so less than half the capacity of our speedboat that has GPS, a sound system and fresh water showers as well as a marine toilet and enjoy an authentic Thai lunch in a charming restaurant, rather than cooking food for the trip prior to departure.
What are the biggest challenges in your line of work?
Well mainly the competition.
How do you get around that and how do you find the language barrier?
We get around that by ensuring we always offer higher levels of services and better quality trips and tours on high quality boats. I speak Thai so the language barrier is not a problem, and being able to speak Thai has helped me develop and motivate a good team of staff, who have become more like family. Our tour guides all speak really good English so we don’t struggle at all with communication.
So what do you do when you get some time off?
I like to sit back with a cold beer and watch the ruby with my friends and spend time with my girlfriend and my two daughters. I love being on the beach and around the ocean. I love live here in Koh Samui.
Is there anything you would change about life here?
I think that it should not be so hard to stay here, visa wise. Being a long term resident I think it would be nice to have the option of becoming a resident, as you would say in the UK. If you stay in the UK for a couple of years or marry there you get residency and a passport. I think the lack of long term resident permits for foreign nationals is disappointing.
Thanks Liam, good luck with your ever increasing fleet of boats and Charter Business.
For more information on Samui Boat Charter <a href= http://www.samuiboatcharter.com/> click here to visit their website </a>