Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and for the past few years it has received a high influx of tourists. While it is a good thing, there is a downside to over tourism. Thailand has already noticed that it has reached an alarming stage that the precious marine resources of the country are already at risk. For one, many divers are trying the Similan island diving experience because of the healthy underwater resources.
In line with these issues, the government has devised a plan to shield the marine resources from grave danger of deterioration. One part of the plan is to limit the number of international tourists that are coming to the marine parks. The limit is set at only 6 million annually.
The marine parks of the country can be found in three different regions – East Thailand’s coast, Gulf of Thailand’s west coast and Southern Thailand’s west coast where the Andaman Sea is located. As of writing, the country has a total of 26 marine parks but only 21 have been awarded a legal recognition. The remaining five marine parks are still undergoing the legislation process, which could take a long time.
Of all the marine parks in the country, four have already been submitted for nomination to be given the World Heritage title. These are Mu Koh Turatao, Mu Koh Similan and Mu Koh Surin who are all known to be famous scuba diving sites while and the fourth park is Phang Nga Ba. During 2011, Similan’s daily tourist number is only 75 but recently the island is welcoming around 6,000 tourists every day.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, the deputy dean of Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, said that in 2017 an estimated 4.8 million international visitors from 34 different nations came to various marine parks of Thailand. For this year, the number is expected to increase to 5.6 million. The problem is that not all tourists are responsible therefore, the marine parks are in danger of deterioration.
The plan to limit the number of visitors is yet to be implemented once the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have given the green signal. For now, tourists are free to experience Similan island diving but they should be responsible not to create damage to natural resources.