No caving to Similan tour operator pressure

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation is refusing to bow to pressure from tour operators in Phang-nga for it to ease current restrictions on the number of visitors to the Similan Islands.

Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Parks Division of the department, says the decision to limit the number of daily visitors to the island at 3,325 plus another 525 visitors for scuba diving was intended to preserve the environment and ecology of the island.

Overnight stays on Similan Islands are also currently banned under the new guidelines.

He says the department doesn’t want a repeat of the situation of the past years when the number of daily visitors spiralled to 6,000-7,000 on some days, well beyond the capability of the island to cope.

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“The department doesn’t want to see Similans to end up like Maya Bay in nearby Krabi province which was recently closed indefinitely due to extensive damage caused to coral reefs and the beach from unlimited visitors.”

The parks division chief said he was not worried by the protest of tour operators who claimed that their business would be affected by the restriction because they had already accepted advance bookings from tourists to visit Similan island and that they were given only short notice about the restrictions.

“Park officials had been discussing with the representatives of the operators throughout the past year about the overcrowding problem on the island and about measures to put a curb on the number of visitors to preserve the island’s environment for long-term benefits for all parties concerned.”

Only few tourists visited Similan island yesterday – the second day of the two-day boycott imposed by tour operators to protest against the restrictions.

Tour operators have been taking tourists to Surin island over the past two days.


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