CAPE PANWA: Phuket’s ambition to build a major tourist attraction around its sea life has been put on hold, indefinitely. The original plan was to build a “Sea World”, costing about 1.5 billion baht, as a major tourist attraction. The centrepiece of the facility would have been a huge three-storey-high, 2-million-litre aquarium with a glass tunnel running through it, allowing visitors to walk “underwater”. The tank would have been filled with marine life, including sharks, stingrays and dolphins. In addition, there would have been an outdoor pool with dugongs and turtles, an exhibition room, a restaurant, a souvenir shop, a car park and an office building. Khun Praween Limpsaichol, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, told the Gazette that the completed project would have been bigger than a similar one in Singapore. Talks have been going on for a number of years with the Spanish Government, which originally showed interest in providing loans to fund the project, and which sent officials to Phuket to study its potential. Now, however, Spain’s interest has apparently dwindled, partly because it considers that the payback period would be too long. Khun Praween said that the Department of Fisheries has already spent 17 million baht on preliminary studies and a model of the project. He pointed out that it would have boosted tourism because visitors could be expected to spend five hours at the facility, meaning they would probably elect to spend another day and night on the island. Assuming that a million tourists a year could be attracted to Sea World, he said, and assuming the average tourist spends 2,000 baht a day to stay in Phuket, this would have meant additional revenue of two billion baht a year for the local economy. Although Phuket’s Sea World is not definitively dead, it is certainly on the back-burner. Nevertheless, Khun Praween says he hopes an improvement in the Thai economy might see the project revived.
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