At the meeting, officials were instructed to “prepare in all aspects” for the start of marine tourism season, the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket) reported. The meeting was held at Sirinat National Park headquarters.
While some marine national parks are open all year round, others close for the rainy season because of the dangerous weather conditions and to help ecosystems to recover.
The renowned Mu Ko Similan National Park in Phang Nga re-opens this year on Oct 15 marking the beginning of the new season.
“I came here today to see the preparation for the coming tourism season and diving season on the Andaman coast. It is a special area abundant with natural resources. It is an extremely beautiful place, renowned around the world. And this is why we are trying to push further for the conservation of the Andaman coast which already has many terriories protected as national parks,” Mr Varawut said.
“We would love to see the area from Ranong to Phuket to be recognised as a single world heritage site. The fertility of this area must be preserved and protected, yet we also have to pay attention to the livelihoods of local people,” he added, reminding of the government’s plan to propose the area as a world heritage site (read here and here).
Mr Varawut stressed that all the 26 marine parks have to strictly follow relevant rules and regulations, especially regarding protection of their underwater ecosystems and safety of tourists.
“First aid training is crucial. Lifesaving equipment must be ready and available for use all the time. Warning signs must be accurate, clear and grammatically correct. The coming high season will bring more tourists than the previous one,” Mr Varawut warned.
Tomorrow (Oct 8) the minister will visit Similan Islands to preside over the opening of a renovated and repaired mooring area. An underwater cleanup at one of the destination’s dive-sites is also scheduled for Oct 8.
According to the materials demonstrated at the meeting at Sirinat National Park yesterday (Oct 7), Thailand now has 16 marine national parks on the Andaman coast and 10 in the Gulf of Thailand (three of them marked as “being in preparation”).
In 2019, the marine national parks altogether welcomed 6.52 million visitors. After the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the numbers dropped to 3.77mn in 2020 and 1.67mn in 2021. In 2022 so far, the parks have welcomed 2.57mn guests.
On Sept 30, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) released the updated park fees for the coming high season.
The Similan Islands National Park and the Surin Island National Park, also popular destinations for Phuket tourists, are the most expensive to visit. Foreign adults are charged B500 for entering and foreign children charged B250 for each visit. Thai national adults are charged B100 and Thai children B50 each.
The full schedule of fees (in Thai) is available here.