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Overtourism leads to indefinite closure of iconic Thai bay

Overtourism leads to indefinite closure of iconic Thai bay
October 3, 2018

Tourism officials in Thailand have advised that Maya Bay, location for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, is to be closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from the damage caused by millions of tourists.

Thai authorities have announced that a temporary four-month closure introduced from 1st June will now be extend to at least a year, due to the extent of the destruction caused by the thousands of day-trippers to the iconic location.

The golden sands and crystal blue water of Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh island, has become one of Thailand’s most-visited tourist destinations since it shot to fame as the movie’s location.

However, the small beach has sustained extensive environmental damage in recent years, receiving up to 5,000 tourists and 200 boats a day.

As a result of pollution from litter, boats and sun cream, it is estimated that more than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed.

Songtam Suksawang, Director of Thailand’s National Parks Department, advised “we have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily.

“It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well the plants which cover it,” he said, adding that it was “impossible” for recovery to occur in the allotted time.

Despite evidence of the mounting damage to Maya Bay, for years, Thai authorities had been reluctant to shut it, because the location generates about 400 million baht (US$12 million) in revenue a year.

However, a Royal Gazette published on 1st October by the National Parks Department announced the restrictions on tourism would not be lifted until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation”.

With coral only growing at a rate of about half a centimetre a year, environmental groups expect that Maya Bay’s reef will take years to be fully restored.

As reported by the Guardian Australia, countries across the region from the Philippines to Indonesia are waking up to the problems that can be caused by excessive tourism.

In April, the Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, announced a six-month closure of the Boracay beach resort, calling the destination a “cesspool”.

Indonesia declared a ‘garbage emergency’ last year along a stretch of the island of Bali, after coastal pollution was highlighted in a viral video that showed a diver swimming through water full of rubbish.

Images: Overtourism at Maya Bay (top) and the Bay without visitors (below). Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

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27th February 2018 - Swamped with marine garbage, popular Bali beaches require massive daily clean up

12th February 2018 - Tourists to be banned from Thailand’s famous Maya Bay

12th October 2017 - Thai Government to introduce jail sentences for smoking on popular beaches

4th July 2017 - PATA maintains leadership in sustainable tourism practices

9th December 2016 - Thailand tourism breaks records with 30 millionth visitor

8th October 2016 - Visits to the Great Barrier Reef an example of ‘last chance tourism’

30th August 2016 - Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort expands environmental program

17th May 2016 - Thai Government closes Andaman Sea island to tourists due to ‘overcrowding’

12th November 2014 - Only one in four protected areas is well managed

9th January 2014 - Zeavola resort’s clean sweap of beaches leaves Phi Phi green and pristine

24th April 2012 - Coastal development destroying Phuket coral reefs

10th February 2011 - Sand disappears at famous Thai beach

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