Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on June 1, 2018
Here's our second dispatch from Koh Phi Phi, this time looking on the economic impact of the Maya Bay closure - which won't be that big according to Thai tourism officials. We explain why.
It’s hard to imagine how thousands of visitors can cram themselves on a tiny beach that’s just 200 meters long.
But this happens every day on Maya Bay, on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh in southern Thailand. In between the masses of people, the water and the boats, there’s not much space to move around.
Many visitors agree.
"Very populated, there’s hella lot of people."
"Yeah, probably too many boats parked around, like, our boats over there…"
"I think the scenery is absolutely stunning and fantastic. The ocean’s clean and there’s plenty of fish to see. But I think this little beach is a little busy."
"It’s a small area with a lot of people. I think if they kept smaller groups from coming here, it’d probably has less of an impact on the environment."
And that’s exactly why Thai authorities are closing it down for the next four months: to let the place rest and recover from the constant tourist invasion.
SAKSITH SAIYASOMBUT; KOH PHI PHI LEH, KRABI PROVINCE:
"I'm here on Krabi province and behind me is Koh Phi Phi Leh island, home to the very famous Maya Bay. Going by an official count, an average 4,000 tourists visit the bay every single day - but Thai tourism officials aren't worried about the economic impact of the shutdown. They say it will be minimal.
One reason is its timing. The shutdown will end before October, before the high tourist season kicks in. Once that happens, there will be no lack of tourists.
In 2017, a record 35 million visited the country; 6 million of them headed to Krabi.
And although Maya Bay is beautiful, officials say it's not the only beach in town.
APICHAI ARANYIG; Director Krabi Province, Tourism Authority of Thailand:
"The policy by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the government is to spread the tourists around from the primary destinations to the secondary destinations. There are more beautiful beaches than on Koh Phi Phi that people might not know. So it’s our task to recommend these places to them, through the tour operators, through the media - tell them that there’s more than just Maya Bay."
But looking beyond the ban, Thailand also has to find a way to manage the rapidly growing number of visitors without hurting the environment.
It is a balance that needs to be found if it wants to preserve its natural treasures for the next generations.
SAKSITH SAIYASOMBUT, Channel NewsAsia, Krabi Province