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Similan Islands – no more sleep overs from October

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Similan Islands – no more sleep overs from October | The Thaiger

by Pratch Rujivanarom

With Maya Bay at Koh Phi Phi Ley poised to close for four months from tomorrow, an announcement yesterday that overnight stays will no longer be allowed in the Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park off Phang Nga province starting from this October.

While the number of visitors to its pristine islands will also be limited as part of efforts to protect the fragile marine ecosystem from tourism and pollution.

The deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Chongklai Voraphongston, says that the national park was suffering problems caused by tourist overcrowding and environmental impacts of visitors’ activities. He said the department had decided to take strong measures to tackle these problems by not allowing visitors to stay overnight on the islands, starting from the opening of the tourism season on October 15.

Mu Ko Similan suffers among the most serious overcrowding of any Thai national park, with some 5,000 to 6,000 visiting its Andaman Sea island chain each day to enjoy the famous scenery and colourful and diverse coral reefs.

Similan Islands - no more sleep overs from October | News by The Thaiger

According to department statistics, since the start of the current fiscal year in October 2017 the national park has welcomed 883,436 visitors, making it the third-busiest marine national park behind Had Nopparat Thara-Phi Phi Island National Park (1.3 million) and Ao Phang-Nga Marine National Park (1.1 million).

Chongklai said the park is the first to take the bold step of forbidding tourists from staying overnight on the islands. He said if the measure were successful in reducing tourist congestion as well as the environmental impact, the DNP would enforce it at other marine national parks, too.

“By allowing tourists to stay overnight on the islands, which have a fragile ecosystem like Mu Ko Similan, the islands’ ecosystem and natural resources unavoidably suffer from serious environmental impacts,” he said.

“This is because providing accommodation and facilities for tourists to stay generates pollution in many forms, including consumption of electricity and freshwater, which pollutes the air and water.”

The longer the period tourists stay on the islands, the more garbage and wastewater they generate, which is very hard to manage on small remote islands like Similan Islands, he added.

There are 35 bungalows and two camping grounds, consisting of 40 tents, for tourists on the islands, which can accommodate up to 190 tourists per night. All the accommodation for the tourists is operated by the national park.

“We will not just stop at overnight stays on the islands, we are also planning to cap the number of visitors to ensure the islands will not receive more tourists than their capacity, as overcrowding harms the environment and the ecosystem of the national park,” Chongklai said.

“The department’s team of experts is now studying the appropriate number of visitors per day for Mu Ko Similan, in order to set a limit.”

He said the DNP would produce a clear plan to control the number of tourists around the time of the national park’s reopening on October 15.

Similan Islands - no more sleep overs from October | News by The Thaiger

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of the national reform committee and leading marine biologist, praised the DNP’s move as brave, and said this policy aligns with the marine national park reform plan under the national strategy.

“At ordinary tourist attractions, overnight stay does not have a huge impact on the area, but offshore islands have a far more fragile ecosystem and the consequences and pollution from tourism activities will have more serious damaging effects,” Thon said.

Complimenting the policy, he said forbidding overnight stays would not only relieve stress caused by prolonged excessive tourism, but would also serve as an example for preserving Thailand’s rich marine ecosystem with sustainable tourism.

STORY: The Nation

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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