The tourism sector on Koh Samui plans to put a major effort into promoting the tropical-beach haven as a low-carbon destination within the next three to five years.
The goal is to increase the island’s tourism revenue, which the industry hopes will be driven by room rates rising by between 30 and 50 per cent. Samui’s tourism income last year was worth more than Bt15 billion.
However, the island requires somewhere between Bt5 billion and Bt8 billion in order to develop a low-carbon infrastructure and is hoping a major part of the funding will come from government sources, Tanongsak Somwong, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said yesterday.
Despite the financial challenge, all stakeholders should work in harmony to achieve the low-carbon goal, he said, acknowledging that it was time to slow the rapid pace of the island’s development in order to place more emphasis on quality over quantity via infrastructure-improvement projects to sustain long-term growth.
Twarath Sutabtr, deputy director-general of the Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department, said it was time for Samui to be reshaped for sustainable growth.
It is clear that current infrastructure development cannot cope with the island’s rapid tourism-industry growth, he said.
Samui was chosen by an Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) tourism working group to be a pioneer low-carbon model town for tourism in Asia-Pacific.
The Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department then carried out research into how this could be achieved and promoted.
The agency concluded that the white-sand-beach island needed to define clearer strategies for its development.
A key requirement is to map out a zoning plan for its growth in order to keep the environment green, especially as it has been threatened by the rising number of new hotel openings. For example, it has to amend the current regulation prohibiting hotel construction to go higher than 12 metres.
The restriction leads to hotels expanding on the ground rather than skywards, and eventually harms the environment over a wider area.
A revised regulation should allow construction above 12-metres high, but only in designated areas, said Twarath.
Another key factor is that Samui should not rely heavily on its energy being supplied from non-island sources.
At present, 100 per cent of its electricity supply comes via four underwater cables. This leaves the island at risk in the event of a natural disaster or accident, with the danger of its power supply being cut completely.
Samui consumes up to 90 megawatts of electricity at peak times, with demand having increased 20 per cent annually, against the country’s average power-demand growth of only 3-4 per cent a year.
Twarath said it was essential for the island to seek alternative-energy sources, with about 50 per cent being supplied itself from energy sources such as wind, solar, water and garbage (biogas).
However, he said it was too early to go into details of potential alternative-energy projects, in which it was likely that the private sector would be invited to invest.
Importantly, the island should place more emphasis on promoting ecotourism and other travel lifestyles, with low-carbon hotels being the main accommodation focus, said the official.