'New normal' rules apply at national park

'New normal' rules apply at national park

Visitor numbers capped at 5,000

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: The Khao Yai National Park on Thursday conducted a test run of its reopening under "new normal" measures to ensure its readiness to welcome a limited number of visitors when it resumes operations on July 1.

Several members of the public participated in the trial run.

Forestry officials gathered in front of the park's entrance, rehearsing how they will check visitors' bookings and body temperature to prevent Covid-19 infections.

When operation resumes, visitors are required to first make a reservation via the QueQ mobile app. When they arrive at the park, visitors are expected to check-in using the government's Thai Chana app.

Jongklai Worapongsathorn, deputy chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the test run went smoothly because those who participated knew how to use Thai Chana's QR code scan function.

Mr Jongklai said if every visitor knew how to use the app, letting them in would take less time.

The app allows government officials to keep track of the number of visitors at specific times.

Wanchai Jaisin, a resident who joined the test run, said the check-in system is easy to use after following information disseminated by forestry officials.

Mr Wanchai added the system will help department officials manage national parks across the kingdom.

Only 5,000 visitors will be allowed in the park during specific periods when it reopens.

According to the department, 400 people have registered to visit Khao Yai National Park from July 4 to 7, part of a long weekend.

"Our long-time dream [before Covid-19] was to limit the number of tourists, which was hard because of our culture," Mr Jongklai said.

"But Covid-19 has brought significant changes, paving the way for us to make it happen."

He said the government's check-in system will help forestry officials reduce the amount of waste produced by park visitors.

Approximately 90% of the World Heritage-inscribed Khao Yai National Park will be open to the 5,000 visitors. The Diew Dai cliff will still be closed until September due to its seasonal recovery period.

Tent services will be limited to 1,500 at the Pha Kluai Mai and Lam Takong areas so visitors adhere to social distancing rules.

Previously, 4,000 tents were allowed in the areas during peak season.

Narin Pinsakul, head of Khao Yai National Park, said the department will work with local traffic police during the long weekend next week. Mr Narin expects a large number of visitors that weekend.

The department previously ordered the closure of all parks across the kingdom for three months due to Covid-19.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has allowed parks to reopen under "new normal" rules such as the need for social distancing.

The move is in line with the department's efforts to limit the number of visitors.

Before the outbreak, approximately 10,000 visitors descended upon national parks during long weekends, congesting traffic and producing tourist waste. Some animals died after ingesting plastic waste discarded by tourists.

Damrus Phoprasit, director of the National Park Office, said the department will consider the possibility of increasing entrance fees at national parks.

He said the department wants to focus on quality over quantity.

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