Thailand is increasingly concerned about sustainable tourism and ways to protect its environment. It has been the official speech from both the Ministry of Sports and Tourism as well as the Tourism Authority of Thailand for over a decade now. But the reality does not always match good will. Overdevelopment and the rush for quick money take often their toll on what used to be pristine destinations. Lack of law enforcement and destination management is to be blamed for a degradated environment at some of Thailand’s favourite destinations. Koh Samui is probably the best example of the absence of proper tourism development management. Waste management, depleted maritime resources are some of the woes on the island these days.
Talking to the Bangkok Post recently, the Tourism Council of Thailand – abody which reprresents the private sector- expressed its concern over the evolution of tourism sites along the Andaman Sea. They blamed that huge volume of travellers are now taking their toll on the environment with many islands experiencing pollution of their water and the destruction of sea life. According to the TCT, Koh Phi Phi -particularly Ao Paya- is a perfect case of environment’s damage generated by the growth of tourism. Coral reefs have been destroyed by anchoring boats, rubbish and human activities. “Tourism operators should pay more attention to protect nature”, stated to the Bangkok Post TCT President Ittirit Kinglek.
TCT President blames the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) to have not done enough to protect the environment from the huge influx of travellers in the area. According to data from the Ministry of Tourism.
Between 19 and 20 million travellers (both domestic and international) visited in 2015 the Andaman Sea, Phuket receiving alone 12 million travellers while Krabi came second at 4.8 million. In his opinion, DNP is merely a ‘fees’ collecting office’ from tourists with little being invested to protect and improve marine areas. Ittirit Kinglek gives Koh Phi Phi as an example where, despite charging a THB400 fee (US$13) from foreign tourists, visitors are often confronted to untidy, congested places littered with garbage. “The DNP’s management is slow and inefficient, so it is unable to develop the locality in a proper manner”, stated TCT President to the newspaper. Not to mention about illegal permits in diving sites operated by tour companies.
Both TCT and TAT suggest that DNP collected fees should be integrally used to maintenance and sites protection. Additional revenues should then be returned to the central government which would then look at maintening the quality of destinations. National Parks which collect the most fees could also share excedents with less-frequented parks with little resources. Another possible task for the Central Government…