Profit vs. environment: Top Southeast Asia beaches close for clean-up

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Picture: Arno Maierbrugger

Pollution, inadequate infrastructure and mass tourism are taking their toll on two of Southeast Asia’s most popular beach destinations, Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

Boracay, where some stretches of beach have been labeled as “cesspools’’ by Philippine  President Rodrigo Duterte, will likely close down for tourists this year after the high season for at least six months to bring garbage collection and wastewater disposal issues in order.

The small island in the central Philippines, with its white sand and crystal blue waters, attracts more than one million tourists a year who spend an estimated $700 million annually. But the massive tourism has caused serious environmental damage to the island. Most of all, uncontrolled construction of too many resorts close to the shoreline and the lack of sewerage systems have created serious environmental problems for Boracay.

The heads of the interior, tourism and environment departments of the Philippines are proposing a six-month closure to clean things up. They, however, said that the closure will affect around 36,000 jobs in the period and, naturally, cause a significant shortfall of tourism revenue.

There have been cancellations from travel agencies mostly from China and South Korea, and Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific also said they were not amused. Tourism representatives suggested closing parts of the island for recovery one after the other but not the entire island at the same time.

While Duterte still has to decide about an actual closure, officials advised to close all of Boracay island for six months at the end of April.

Philippine Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia noted that the clean-up drive should ensure sustainability of the destination at one point touted by an international travel magazine as “the best island in the world.”

“That may be the minimum that needs to be done to sensitise and instill fear in violative resort owners as well as tourists who degrade the ecology,” Pernia said.

Thailand shuts down “The Beach”

Meanwhile, Thailand will shut Maya Bay, which famously featured in The Beach, a romantic movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for four months a year, from June, the country’s National Parks and Wildlife Department announced on March 28.

Marine experts stated that the beach was “overworked and tired” and that it urgently needed a timeout. The decision has been made in order to let damaged coral reefs and sea life, which has virtually disappeared, recover.

The beach has remained open all year-round since 1999 when The Beach was filmed due to visitor demand and remains the only Thai marine national park to do so. According to official statistics, it receives an average of 4,000 visitors daily. When it reopens, a set limit of 2,000 will be put in place.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Picture: Arno Maierbrugger

Pollution, inadequate infrastructure and mass tourism are taking their toll on two of Southeast Asia’s most popular beach destinations, Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Picture: Arno Maierbrugger

Pollution, inadequate infrastructure and mass tourism are taking their toll on two of Southeast Asia’s most popular beach destinations, Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

Boracay, where some stretches of beach have been labeled as “cesspools’’ by Philippine  President Rodrigo Duterte, will likely close down for tourists this year after the high season for at least six months to bring garbage collection and wastewater disposal issues in order.

The small island in the central Philippines, with its white sand and crystal blue waters, attracts more than one million tourists a year who spend an estimated $700 million annually. But the massive tourism has caused serious environmental damage to the island. Most of all, uncontrolled construction of too many resorts close to the shoreline and the lack of sewerage systems have created serious environmental problems for Boracay.

The heads of the interior, tourism and environment departments of the Philippines are proposing a six-month closure to clean things up. They, however, said that the closure will affect around 36,000 jobs in the period and, naturally, cause a significant shortfall of tourism revenue.

There have been cancellations from travel agencies mostly from China and South Korea, and Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific also said they were not amused. Tourism representatives suggested closing parts of the island for recovery one after the other but not the entire island at the same time.

While Duterte still has to decide about an actual closure, officials advised to close all of Boracay island for six months at the end of April.

Philippine Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia noted that the clean-up drive should ensure sustainability of the destination at one point touted by an international travel magazine as “the best island in the world.”

“That may be the minimum that needs to be done to sensitise and instill fear in violative resort owners as well as tourists who degrade the ecology,” Pernia said.

Thailand shuts down “The Beach”

Meanwhile, Thailand will shut Maya Bay, which famously featured in The Beach, a romantic movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for four months a year, from June, the country’s National Parks and Wildlife Department announced on March 28.

Marine experts stated that the beach was “overworked and tired” and that it urgently needed a timeout. The decision has been made in order to let damaged coral reefs and sea life, which has virtually disappeared, recover.

The beach has remained open all year-round since 1999 when The Beach was filmed due to visitor demand and remains the only Thai marine national park to do so. According to official statistics, it receives an average of 4,000 visitors daily. When it reopens, a set limit of 2,000 will be put in place.

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