It will be a significant turning point for better marine resource management under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation – with cooperation from all stakeholders, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the project.
Phang Nga National Park attracts the second-largest number of visitors each year among marine national parks in Thailand, after Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park in Krabi province. It is estimated that an average of 1.3 million tourists visit the marine national park every year with 95% of them foreigners, compared to 80% of the 1.7 million visitors to Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.
“We see potential growth in the number of tourists to Phang Nga National Park, which can be seen in both positive and negative aspects depending on whether there are proper plans to manage the tourism sites properly,” Mr Thon said.
He explained that what is outstanding about Phang Nga National Park is that locals benefit from the tourism industry directly. It is estimated that 2,500 residents living around the seven local administrative organisations near the national park earn money from tourism, which includes 1,600 people living in the Koh Panyee fisheries community that hosts both restaurants and fisheries businesses for around 4,000 tourists who visit the park each day. It also includes 400 locals who take tourists on kayak trips to caves, and who make around B500 a day.
Locals agree with the model as they hope a better management plan will create sustainable tourism development for their community. Some of the income collected by the department will be shared with the local administrative organisations under the model, said Mr Thon.
The plan will increase safety measures for tourists, improve waste management and the conservation and preservation of the marine ecological system, encourage good owner house practices to welcome tourists and conduct nature classes for children, he said.
Mr Thon, a marine conservationist, said he has asked for cooperation from bioplastic producers across the country to donate one million bioplastic bags to business operators in Koh Panyee and Khao Ping Kan Island to be used in shopping centres inside the national park, replacing plastic bags. There is a pile of garbage floating in the Andaman Sea and it is a big challenge the country must deal with, while plastic bags also threaten marine life that die when they ingest them, he said.
Nattapol Rattanaphan, director of Marine and Coastal Management Division, said the public’s awareness of marine conservation and preservation, together with increasing the department’s income from the marine national park entrance fee, has contributed to better management of resources.
“We have more money in our hands. We can do many things that we couldn’t do in the past due to limited budget. You will see new standards for marine national park management shortly,” he said.
The highest recorded income from marine national park entrance fees was in 2016 during the era of Sarayuth Tanthien, former chief of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, when B561 million was collected, compared with B84.94mn in 2015. His success set a new standard for graft-free fee collection in the world class national park.
Last year, the department earned B1.98 billion from park fees from more than 16.68mn tourists, compared with B896.8mn in 2015 from 12.98mn tourists.
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