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Asia Minute: Thailand Closing Popular Beach — For Now

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii’s visitor industry reported another strong month in April, although any impact of the Kilauea Volcano won’t show up until the May figures come out next month. While authorities continue to encourage visitors to Hawaii, there’s another location in the Asia Pacific that is taking a different approach. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

If you’re thinking of a tropical getaway that doesn’t involve travel around Hawaii, there’s a beach in Thailand you can take off your list —at least for now.

In fact, to some people it’s “The Beach.”

That was the title of a Leonardo DeCaprio movie shot on Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island about 20 years ago. And while Thailand has used that fact to help attract tourists, now authorities in the military government are reversing course.

Starting today, they’re closing the beach for the next four months to allow ocean life to recover a bit — including coral reefs.

The Philippines is trying a similar tactic with its island of Boracay. The government there shut it down for six months starting in April – largely to clean up infrastructure that had been worn down by a constant heavy flow of visitors.

In Thailand, the government is taking an additional step — planning to restrict the number of visitors it allows once the beach re-opens.

Credit PIVISO / Flickr
Phi Phi Island, Thailand

This is actually not peak travel time for beach visitors to Thailand — it’s monsoon season, and that can linger until the middle of October. Even so, Maya Bay had stayed open during monsoon season in past years — this is the first time the Thai government is taking this approach.

As for the rest of Phi Phi Island, and other beaches in Thailand, those remain open to visitors and open for business.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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