The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation held a meeting at the Pearl Hotel on Phuket on Tuesday to discuss the excessive numbers of tourists visiting the famous islands and bays.
Songtham Suksawang, chief of the DNP’s National Parks Office, who chaired the meeting, said that the amount of tourists in marine national parks was directly affecting the environment.
“Those national parks, especially marine national parks, are suffering from an oversupply of visitors. There are many problems such as oil from boats, rubbish and the effect on the local lifestyle on the islands, which is difficult to rehabilitate in the short term. They [meeting participants] discussed rearranging of the marine national parks to better meet the demand, but by limiting supply and providing a more sustainable solution,” he said.
“There will be a study on the limiting of tourism. Some locations have already had these studies done. After sending the officers to check, we found that there’s a specific period of time when the islands are overcrowded, which is 11am to 2pm when the tourists come onshore to rest and have lunch. There are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people visiting some of the islands each day,” he added.
The DNP has plans for a solution on the Similan Islands by spreading tourists around the other islands, as Island Four and Island Eight are way too overcrowded.
“We will spread tourists to other islands, apart from Islands Four and Eight, by installing piers to connect them. They will be floating piers to avoid disturbing the corals. There will be a floating centre, where tourists can rest in front of the island, as well.
“The purchasing process of the centres will be completed by March 31. We will start this project near the islands that are highly overcrowded, such as Similan, Phi Phi and in Phang Nga Bay. The limitation of tourists according to the time of the day will also follow after the study is done,” Songtham explained.
“The limiting of tourists and an increase in customer fees are possible if the environment continues to be damaged too much from tourism,” he pointed out.
The DNP will also create an e-ticket to enter the islands, which will possibly start with the Similans, Phi Phi and Phang Nga Bay, as this would also help solve the issue of transparency in national park management, the National Parks Office chief said.
For security, he said that he had approved budgets for ambulance and rescue boats and was currently coordinating with the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand to provide assistance to tourists in the marine national park area.
In case of emergency, the 1669 hotline is also available 24/7.