Maya Bay closure draws ire from tour firms

Maya Bay closure draws ire from tour firms

Maya Bay's beach off Krabi province will be closed for at least another year, and possibly until 2020. (File photos)
Maya Bay's beach off Krabi province will be closed for at least another year, and possibly until 2020. (File photos)

The closure of the world-class tourist site, Maya Bay in Krabi, to visitors was extended indefinitely to allow the damaged marine ecosystem to fully recover, drawing immediate protests from tour operators.

The globally renowned beach and nearby bays in Koh Phi Phi in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park, have been regularly closed since June 1, initially for the monsoon season, and reopened around Oct 1.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) decided to do so after learning the marine environment needs time to repair after sustaining serious damage due to the hordes of day-tripping tour groups.

An announcement signed on Sept 28 by Thanya Nethithammakul, the head of the DNP, to close the bay and nearby La Dalam beach indefinitely from Oct 1 onward, until the marine and coastal resources and environment return to normal.

Marine National Park chief Worapoj Lomlim said on Tuesday that during the meeting, experts expressed concern the coral reefs have been damaged and need more time to repair.

Through DNP's campaign to restore the environment to its previous state, it planted more than 1,000 corals in 25 rai of the bay, and will continue to expand the area.

Maya Bay, part of an island in Krabi's Mueang district, became globally famous after the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot there in 1999.

It is considered the most visited national park site, bringing around 400 million baht in revenue last year. During the peak season, about 5,000 visitors -- more than double its capacity -- have been visiting the beach on Maya Bay, that is only 250 metres in length and 15 metres in width.

A typical day at Maya Bay before the closure ordered on June 1. 'We need at least a year or even up to two years' for rehabilitation, says the director of the Office of National Parks.

The announcement brought howls of protest from tour firms and related businesses in Krabi.

Wattrapol Chanthararo, chairman of the Koh Phi Phi Tourism Business Club, said the closure of Maya Bay would certainly affect tourism on the island as a whole. Authorities did not seek the views of any 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. This would affect tourism not just on Koh Phi Phi, but also in Krabi province in general, he said.

Mr Wattrapol also said he will call a meeting of club members on Oct 8 or 9 to discuss ways around the problems caused by the closure.

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