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Thailand’s Maya Bay to remain closed to tourists until 2021
In an attempt to save it from ruin after years of heavy tourist exposure, the once-pristine Thai cove made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach will remain closed to visitors for another two years.
Thai authorities initially closed Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh Island in the Andaman Sea, in May last year, after years of uninterrupted visits from tourists destroyed much of the coral and sea life and contributed to erosion of the beach.
That closure has been extended indefinitely with Thailand's National Parks Department now committed to keeping it closed until 2021.
Reaction to the closure has been mixed. At the time of the initial decision last year, conservationists backed the move saying it was long overdue given the beach was attracting thousands of visitors a day.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and member of a Thai Government committee on development and the environment, said at the time "I tried to push this campaign for many many years, but you know in Thailand we are a tourism industry country and we need a lot of money, so before not so many people listened.
"It should have been done 10 years ago but at least it has been done."
However, local operators in tourism - one of Thailand's most important industries - have long protested the closure, saying their livelihood has been thrown into jeopardy as the tourist hotspot offered job opportunities to many.
Watrapol Jantharo of the Phi Phi Tourist Business Association, said in March last year “we are not against protecting our environment.
"We know full well that Maya Bay is our important resource, like a rice field to a farmer, but we wish there are more communications about the government's plan before the decision was made."
Reports say the ecology of the area has improved since it has been closed to the public, with some coral and sea life returning.
Images: Phi Phi Leh's Maya Bay from the air (top) and overtourism at the Bay (below). Courtesy of TripAdvisor.
2nd February 2019 - World Tourism Association launched to combat overtourism
24th November 2018 - Phuket launches ground breaking ‘No Foam No Plastic’ environmental initiative
21st November 2018 - New UNWTO Report helps cities manage impacts of ‘overtourism’
3rd October 2018 - Overtourism leads to indefinite closure of iconic Thai bay
24th July 2018 - Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort opens Marine Discover Centre
12th February 2018 - Tourists to be banned from Thailand’s famous Maya Bay
30th August 2016 - Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort expands environmental program
9th January 2014 - Zeavola resort’s clean sweap of beaches leaves Phi Phi green and pristine
21st February 2013 - Massive shift in Phuket’s tourism patterns
24th April 2012 - Coastal development destroying Phuket coral reefs
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