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Tourists to be banned from Thailand’s famous Maya Bay

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

Concerns over environmental damage at Thailand’s Maya Bay, location for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, has led Thai tourism officials to announce a planned three month closure to allow its coral reef to recover.

The once pristine beach is now suffering from overtourism with around 5000 tourists a day visiting on motorboats from the tourism hubs of Phuket and Krabi.

Located on the uninhabited island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, Maya Bay, often known simply as ‘the beach’, is one of the world’s most famous beaches, thanks to its starring role in Danny Boyle’s film of Alex Garland’s bestselling novel.

However, environmental concerns mean it will close to tourists for three months from June, during the tourism low season, to help it recover.

While similar measures have been introduced on other Thai islands – in 2016 local authorities closed Koh Tachai - it is the first time tourists will be forbidden from visiting Maya Bay.

Almost 80% of Thailand’s coral reefs have been destroyed in recent decades, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, with the primary causes being beachfront hotels, boat anchors and plastic waste being dumped in the sea.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Thamrongnawasawat said that while temporary closures can help to an extent, the “ideal solution” would be for the bay to be closed permanently. Thamrongnawasawat has long been outspoken about the need to protect Thailand’s marine parks and has warned about the risk from overtourism.

Those familiar with the region are aware of overcrowding at Maya Bay.

Sam Clark of Experience Travel says the tour operator suggested its guests give up on boat trips to Maya Bay “long ago”.

Clark told The Guardian “while it’s a very pretty bay and recognisable from The Beach, visiting it with a flotilla of boats and hordes of other tourists rather detracted from the magic.

“If the bay needs to be closed to allow for recovery time in the low season, I can only welcome that.”

Clark added “the Thai authorities have the benefit of seeing what unchecked development over a 40-year period did to regions of Spain and other places, so they can hopefully learn from that.”

Images: Overtourism at Maya Bay (top), the Bay as it looks in the brochures (middle) and from the air (below). Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

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However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

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