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, according to tourism businesses there.
Koh Samui is among the most popular destinations in Thailand. Apart from the seaside activities, visitors are attracted to its party scene and nightlife entertainment, particularly the Full Moon Party organised twice a month on neighbouring Koh Phangan, just a 30-minute hop away by speedboat.
Since the travel restrictions were eased, over 10,000 people arrived on Koh Phangan to attend the last Full Moon Party.
The tourism businesses agreed that a surge in tourist numbers has revived the local economy battered by 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 a number of tourism operators. However, it would require the support of the government as well as 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 similar nightspots are allowed to reopen today in 31 provinces after an extended shutdown, although a midnight closing time will still be enforced.
Thanapon Uthaiwannaporn, a manager at the Combo Beach Hotel and Beach Bar, said Koh Samui in particular was in dire need of an economic boost.
He said the concept of an entertainment island cluster is rarely seen in other countries.
Meanwhile, 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.
The plan was proposed by Chun Sirichaikhirikosol, a member of the Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Administrative Organisation Council.