Phetchabun needs to take urgent action to tackle a sudden surge of visitors after Si Thep Historical Park was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site on Sept 19, according to officials.
Chatchaval Benchasiriwong, deputy governor, on Sunday said the province was not prepared for a tourist overcrowding situation. The province should have implemented measures to better manage the park after it was first added to a tentative Unesco list in 2019, he said.
"The number of visitors has climbed from 300 to about 7,000 per day," Mr Chatchaval said. "We need an urgent solution to protect Si Thep Historical Park from damage amid tourist overcrowding."
"We had time to prepare the site for tourism for four years, but why did we do nothing?" said Mr Chatchaval, who has been deputy governor for about two years.
As the number of visitors surged, authorities have received complaints about a lack of facilities, such as parking spaces, food, nearby accommodation and toilets, he said.
He said he was instructed by the governor to provide mobile toilets in response to those complaints. He said provincial executive committees had met recently to seek solutions.
The governor is expected to meet executives and senior officials of the Ministry of Culture to outline a solution as the historic park is overseen by the ministry.
Si Thep Historical Park covers an area of 866.451 hectares in the Si Thep district.
It features three cultural sites: the ancient Town of Si Thep, Khao Klang Nok and Khao Thamorrat Cave ancient monuments dating back to the Dvaravati period, a kingdom that reigned from the 6th to the 11th century. The Fine Arts Department (FAD) first excavated the site in 1978.
Following the site's rise in popularity, about 30,000 visitors climbed Khao Klang Nok, a large ruin about 64 metres long and 20m high, in the past weekend, Mr Chatchaval said. Citing safety concerns, the FAD has announced a temporary closure of the ancient monument, he said, noting visitors may only take photos around its base.
Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanich, who visited Si Thep Historical Park on Friday, said he was concerned about the safety of tourists and possible damage at the historical site. He said the FAD has been told to work with Phetchabun and local authorities to better manage the site.