The future is not mass tourism


As tourism stopped in Thailand during the Covid-19 pandemic, the coastal waters of Koh Hae in Phuket have returned to a healthier shade of blue.

A huge challenge awaits Thailand as plans are underway to open up the country to save the tourism industry: how to prevent a new wave of environmental attacks from mass tourism.

Certainly, the tourism industry is the country’s main source of income. But the massive influx of tourists far exceeds the capacity of the country, which has taken a heavy toll on the natural environment.

To be sure, the global Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the tourism industry, destroying businesses and millions of jobs. But the rapid regeneration of nature in just a few months during the lockdown also highlights how to strike a balance between short-term and long-term gains for sustainable tourism when the country is ready to move again.

The answer comes from a flood of good news from the coastal seas that have given the country much needed morale amid the gloom of the coronavirus.

In Phuket, the sea in front of Patong beach has become turquoise and crystal clear. In Trang, a large group of 30 dugongs were spotted near the island of Ko Libong. A rare breed of sea turtles has also reappeared on Cape Juhoi on the island.

In Samui, endangered green turtles (tao tanu) also made a comeback, laying over 200 eggs on the beach, the first time in six years. After the hatching, the baby turtles returned to the sea safely amid the great excitement and pride of the locals. A large school of around 50 black tip reef sharks has also been spotted in Krabi.

In Phangnga, marine guards spotted around 20 black tip sharks near a popular beach in Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park. A large school of 100 bottlenose dolphins reappeared in the area. About four to five endangered leatherback turtles (tao mafuang) have also returned to lay eggs on the beaches of Phangnga and Phuket. The number of eggs laid was the highest in 20 years.

It’s obvious. The number of tourists and tourism activities has a direct impact on the health of coastal seas, marine fauna and other natural resources.

The regeneration of the marine ecosystem is quickly visible, as evidenced by the return of wildlife in a few months after the country closed its doors to tourists.

It’s clear. Nature can quickly bounce back when given the opportunity. Managing the capacity of tourist sites is therefore essential to revive deteriorated ecosystems and maintain their health as a sustainable source of tourism income for the country.

It is important for Thailand not to allow coastal seas to be ruined again by environmentally destructive mass tourism.

This is where the “blue economy” comes in.

The “blue economy” is the sustainable use and management of ocean resources and coastal tourism not only to serve the national economy, but also the way of life of the inhabitants, while preserving the health of the oceans, seas and seas. sides.

Efforts have been made to make the blue economy the heart of the sustainable development of marine and coastal resources in Thailand. Unfortunately, they have not yet taken root. This must change.

The rapid recovery of marine resources and wildlife following the reduction in tourists and tourism activities after the Covid-19 pandemic shows that the blue economy is the way forward. The government must accelerate the blue economy and take concrete steps to ensure that coastal resources remain healthy and secure for long-term use.

Thailand’s coastal lines stretch over 3,100 kilometers and cover 23 provinces. The country’s maritime area covers more than 320,000 square kilometers, or about 60% of the national territory. The economic value of coastal seas is immense.

According to a study by the Subcommittee on Knowledge Management for National Marine Interests, marine resources have generated more than 24 trillion baht for the national economy. The monetary value comes from coastal tourism, fishing, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas production, and commercial maritime trade.

A study by Thailand Development Research (TDRI) also shows that the blue economy can be achieved through various measures to ensure that coastal tourism does not exceed carrying capacity.

For example, by limiting the number of tourists and regulating seaside activities through strict zoning, whether for accommodation, the sale of food or coastal fishing. The number of hotels and other accommodation must be limited to the capacity. The annual closure of national marine parks is also necessary to allow nature to recover. All this to allow coastal seas to generate income for the national economy while preserving the health of marine resources.

Necessity breeds creativity. This is also true in the time of Covid-19. Locked in by blockages in cities, people need to harness the digital economy more intensively, leading to increased efficiency and productivity in many areas.

Working from home, for example, has reduced the need for transportation, reducing both financial and environmental costs. Online shopping reduces investment and transaction expenses, benefiting both traders and consumers. Online banking and e-commerce have also reduced production and labor costs. Scarce resources are then spared to meet the country’s other needs.

Despite massive financial losses, the economic crisis of the pandemic offers many valuable lessons for the country. We shouldn’t let them get lost. Instead, we should use them to create a new standard that prioritizes sustainable uses of natural resources. As the country plans to open its borders to tourism, it should heed the message of sea turtles, dolphins and reef sharks in the Andaman Sea.

Respect the limits of nature. To preserve the environment. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs with mass tourism. Otherwise, the collapse of marine resources is near. For this, we cannot blame the pandemic. Only our myopia. And greed.


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