After being closed for the past 4 years over environmental concerns, Thailand’s notorious Maya beach, made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach, has recently reopened with new sustainability terms. The beach, surrounded by cliffs a hundred meters high, is on the island of Phi Phi Leh in the Andaman Sea and is only accessible by boat from nearby points such as Phuket or Phi Phi, or from the mainland, Krabi.
To ensure it remains protected, Thai authorities determined that around 300 visitors will be allowed to visit the beach at the same time and tourists are not allowed to swim for the time being. Visits will be done by seven or eight shifts per day between 10am and 4pm — limiting the total of daily visitors to around 3000 people.
A new circuit was also designed for future visitors to reach Maya beach, including the construction of a boardwalk, an effort to limit damage to sand and plants. Measures to preserve the paradisiac karst cliffs include the introduction of a floating dock located behind the cliffs, meaning that boats will no longer be allowed to anchor in the bay itself.
Overtourism impacting nature
Thai authorities closed the entire Maya Bay to the public in 2018 — long before the pandemic — alleging that coral reefs and beach areas had been damaged by constant tourist activities. Estimates say that by 2018, overtourism was crushing the famous Thai island, with close to 6,000 people a day flocking to see the turquoise waters and bright white sand. But since the beginning of this year, some visitors have been allowed to return.
The sharks are back, the coral reefs are growing and the water is clean again.These signs show that nature heals if we give it time — and we have to work to keep it that wayYuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Thailand Tourism Authority
During a high-level meeting with tourist ministers from across the world in November 2021, the head of the United Nations World Tourism Organization warned that the “climate emergency is a bigger threat than Covid-19”.
Before the pandemic, tourism represented around 12% of Thailand’s economy and was one of the main drivers of growth, with the country attracting 40 million visitors in 2019, also a huge burden on the country’s environment.