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Tour firms furious when Maya Bay fails to reopen

October 5, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The battle is on between conservation and tourism in Thailand, following a controversial decision to extend indefinitely a tourist ban on an iconic beach.

Maya Bay in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park – already famous as the setting of ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio – hit the headlines in May, when Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) confirmed that the bay would be off-limits to tourists from 1 June to 30 September 2018, to evaluate how mass tourism had affected the destination.

Tour operators waiting eagerly for the ban to be lifted have received a rude shock.

DNP officials in Bangkok have declared Maya Bay, including Loh Samah Bay, a tourist no-go zone until the marine environment improves to their satisfaction. Date unspecified.

The Phuket News carried a statement by Chief of the Hat Nopparat-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, Worapoj Lomlim, confirming the closure.

Tour firms and related businesses are outraged.

Wattrapol Chanthararo, chairman of the Koh Phi Phi Tourism Business Club, said the closure of Maya Bay would affect tourism throughout the whole island. He accused authorities of not having sought the views of local residents before making the decision.

Tourists who already booked tour packages to visit the bay during dates after the closure would not be able to enter the area, he pointed out.

More talks are scheduled next week.

The move renews debate on the impact of “over-tourism” on idyllic destinations.

In its initial visitor ban, the DNP said travellers could still “catch a glimpse of the Bay’s stunning beauty” from 400 metres distance, or between the two cliffs that form a natural entrance to the lagoon.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand points out that temporary closings of natural attractions are not new to the Kingdom.

Each year, the DNP closes several national parks for a period to allow for ecological recovery time. Depending on weather and park conditions, dates vary as the closures are often due to extreme weather, especially during the rainy annual monsoon that may create unsafe conditions.

Written by Peter Needham

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