Movies have a huge influence on people. More often than not, venues that were used as settings or shooting sites for movies become popular tourist spots later on. A lot of theme parks have also been patterned on movie sets, making them more popular to tourists.
But while this can be good for tourism, there’s also a rather disheartening side to it all: destruction.
That’s what happened to Maya Bay on Phi Phi island, Krabi Province in Thailand. It was the setting for Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”. The movie had already received much controversy at the time it was filmed after parts of the beach were flattened, with several coconut trees removed to depict a wider beach.
But things really changed for the island after the movie was released. Tourists came in droves. The number continued to increase throughout the years, making this spot one of the best tourist destinations in Thailand.
Each day, an average of 200 boats carry some 4,000 tourists to Maya Bay. But this wreaked havoc to the ecosystem of the island. By late 2017, marine biologists discovered that there was very little sea life left in Maya Bay because most of the coral reefs have been destroyed.
The influx of tourists had brought money to the area but this also destroyed Maya Bay. This led the National Parks and Wildlife Department to call for a closure of Maya Bay. For now, the closure will be temporary and scheduled to 4 months per year, starting this June 2018.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a prominent marine scientist and member of Thailand’s national strategy committee on environment development, said, “It’s like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped. Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a timeout for the beach.”
Sadly, the area isn’t the only place destroyed by tourism. At least two other places in Thailand that have been permanently closed off to tourists due to massive destruction in the natural ecosystem!
“If you ask me if it is too late to save our islands, the answer is no. But if we don’t do something today, it will be too late,” said National Parks and Wildlife Department head Thanya Netithammakum.
It was also reported that when Maya Bay will reopen, the number of tourists will be limited to 2,000 per day and boats will not be allowed to put their anchors on the beach but will be required to dock at the opposite side of the island on floating piers.
“I have always dreamt that one day we could work to bring her back to life. I have been following and working on Maya Bay for more than 30 years. I had seen it when it was a heaven and I see it when it has nothing left. Anything that we can do to bring this paradise back to Thailand is the dream of a marine biologist,” said Thamrongnawasawat.