3 islands proposed as 'entertainment cluster'
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3 islands proposed as 'entertainment cluster'

Tourists relax on a beach on Koh Tao in Surat Thani province in January 2022. (File photo: Supapong Chaolan)
Tourists relax on a beach on Koh Tao in Surat Thani province in January 2022. (File photo: Supapong Chaolan)

SURAT THANI: A call to develop Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan into world-class entertainment islands is gaining support from local tourism operators.

Foreign visitors to this small island chain in the Gulf of Thailand have grown steadily since the Test & Go entry restrictions ended on May 1 this year, according to local tourism businesses.

They agreed that a surge in tourist numbers has revived the local economy battered by over two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A newspaper columnist first floated the idea of bundling the three islands together as a major entertainment destination, and it has been well-received by some tourism operators. However, it would need the government’s support and cooperation from the private sector. 

Advocates of the plan say focusing on the nightlife entertainment would increase tourism revenue as pubs, bars, karaoke venues, massage parlours and other nightspots are now allowed to reopen in 31 provinces following an extended shutdown, although a midnight closing time will still be enforced.

Thanapon Uthaiwannaporn, a manager at the Combo Beach Hotel Samui, said Koh Samui was in dire need of an economic boost. 

The concept of an entertainment island cluster is rarely seen in other countries, he said.

- Korat locals oppose skywalk plan -

In another tourism-related development, local resistance is building against a plan to construct an elevated walkway in the no-hunting zone of Khao Phang Ma wildlife sanctuary in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

The plan was put forward by Chun Sirichaikhirikosol, a member of the Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Administrative Organisation Council. The proposed skywalk was billed as a new tourism landmark overlooking the forest that would afford visitors a view of the gaurs below in Wang Nam Khieo district.

However, the plan has drawn opposition from environmentalists and residents. 

Kangwan Srisawas, a 44-year-old resident of Klong Sai village, said the project was just an idea of a handful of people, and the locals were never consulted.

While the skywalk may boost tourism, the structure would stand as an eyesore and intrude on the wildlife protection park, he added. 

Mr Kangwan said income from tourists would not directly benefit local people, who would however be left to deal with the rubbish they leave behind.

For years, he said, some 300 gaurs in the area have raided nearby farms and damaged crops. 

Witthaya Sakolcharoendech, a member of the Khao Phang Ma conservation planning committee, said the skywalk plan must be studied carefully. He said there are already lookout points where visitors can catch sweeping views of the sanctuary.

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