Parks officials refuse to budge over Similan quota
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has rejected a request by business operators to postpone a quota system for tourists in Similan National Park in Phangnga province.
"We informed them in advance and did not just tell them now as tour operators have claimed. We will not revise our decision. The longer we postpone a plan for tourism management, the more we will lose. And business operators will face a critical impact eventually," said Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office which oversees national parks under the DNP.
Mr Songtham was responding Moinday to criticism from tour operators including cruise operators and van services gathered at a pier at tambon Thublamu in Thai Muang district. They were demanding the department reverse the order.
Mr Songtham said the department does not want to see the national park laid to ruin as happened with Maya beach in Noppharat Thara Beach-Phi Phi Islands National Park.
The DNP announced in September the bay is being closed "indefinitely" due to the negative impact of too many tourists arriving in the wake of the Hollywood movie The Beach.
The department said last week it would limit the number of visitors to Similan National Park to 3,850 a day. The quota took effect Monday.
The decision was based on academic research that looked into the capacity of Thailand's marine parks. It was commissioned by the DNP and undertaken by researchers from the faculty of fisheries at Kasetsart University.
The study concluded a daily cap of 3,325 day tourists and 525 divers should be imposed. The national park currently sees around 7,000 visitors a day. Last year, 912,000 tourists visited.
However, the DNP has upset tour operators in the Andaman Sea with the policy change.
The study also found that marine parks in Thailand lack sufficient toilet facilities for tourists. There are only two toilets on Koh Pad and four on Koh Si.
Cruise operator Boonchoo Paeyai predicted there will be more job losses in the local tourism sector.