Natural Resources and Environment Minister Warawut Silpa-Archa on Tuesday said the bay may be reopened within six months. His announcement came during an inspection visit of the area.
Located in the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi Marine National Park, Maya Bay has been closed for more than two years to allow the local marine ecosystem recover from years of heavy tourism.
Over the years, Maya Bay had become an international tourism magnet, luring visitors from all over the world who want to visit the park. The park’s popularity skyrocketed after the release of the Hollywood film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, 20 years ago.
By 2017, the daily number of visitors was almost 5,000, but the department estimated that the bay and island could only accommodate 2,400 tourists per day. In total, 1.38mn tourists visited the bay in 2016, and 1.65mn visited in 2017.
Mr Warawut on Tuesday explained that at this stage a pier is under construction at Loh Sama Bay, located on the other side of Phi Phi Leh island.
“After Maya Bay reopens, only 350 tourists per day will be allowed to visit. However no boats will be allowed to anchor near the shore,” Mr Warawut said.
“This will be a new measure for traveling to Maya Bay,” he added.
A report by state news agency NNT explained that a panel of experts will first be consulted about the suitability of the plan.
The committee of experts will first be consulted on the feasibility of allowing no more than 350 people to visit the island daily and the plan to ensure no boats are anchored near the shore.
If the panel agrees, the island will be opened to tourists next year, said the report.
The news follows Mr Warawut presiding over the opening ceremony for a 360-degree viewpoint tower on nearby Koh Hong on Sunday (Nov 1).
Present to welcome the minister were Krabi Provincial Governor ML Kitibodee Pravitra, Than Bok Khorani National Park Chief Theekhawut Sriburin, and a host of other officials.