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Thailand is now welcoming Indians with open arms, but are its drought-hit islands really prepared for a tourism influx?

Thailand is now welcoming Indians with open arms, but are its drought-hit islands really prepared for a tourism influx?
Thailand’s geographical proximity and affordability, along with its platter of delectable food, historical sites, pristine beaches and lively atmosphere, holds a particular appeal for Indian travellers. While tourists from India were forced to limit their travels to the Island country to a 15-day stay under a visa-on-arrival scheme until recently, the Thailand government is now extending its arms wider for us.

Thailand's tourism sector has been strategically easing visa regulations to attract visitors from key markets like China and Russia. And now, the country has extended its visa exemption program, allowing visitors from these countries to vacation visa-free for up to 30 days until November 11, 2024. This move aims to revitalise its tourism industry, a key driver of the nation's economy.

This is no doubt great news for those wanting to spend more time in the bustling city of Bangkok or immerse themselves in the rich culture and calm of its gorgeous temples. However, there are some rather glaring problems that Thailand is facing, thanks to climate change and the El Niño event — that impacted India as well.

Water shortage hits Phi Phi islands

For instance, the idyllic islands of Koh Phi Phi, which attract many Indians every year, are facing a real-life challenge that's anything but relaxing — a severe water shortage after a scorching heatwave gripped Asia.

The private company supplying water may have to cut off service entirely, according to Wichupan Phukaoluan Srisanya, president of the Krabi Hotel Association. Island authorities are scrambling for solutions, considering bringing in water from the mainland if the dry spell persists. However, they remain optimistic that the upcoming wet season in May will bring relief, and Wichupan insists that tourists planning trips shouldn't be deterred, claiming they can manage the situation.

But whispers of trouble are already reaching potential visitors. Online forums and travel reviews are buzzing with warnings from returning tourists urging others to "check if their accommodation has fresh water" before booking. Some reports even detail tap water running dry in April.

While Koh Phi Phi takes centre stage, the heatwave's impact isn't isolated. Koh Samui, another popular Thai island, has also experienced dry and scorching conditions. Although the tourism board there assures visitors haven't been affected, the island reportedly relies on water trucks, significantly increasing operational costs for hotels.

Island closure due to coral bleaching

A popular island in southern Thailand, Pling Island, has been hit with a temporary closure due to extensive coral bleaching. This drastic measure by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) highlights the growing threat climate change poses to our underwater wonders.

Pling Island recently witnessed intense heatwaves along with many other islands across Thailand and Asia. Due to ocean warming and acidification, corals expel the algae living within them, leaving them pale and vulnerable — a process referred to as coral bleaching.

Thailand’s pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs are a major draw for visitors, generating millions in revenue. However, unregulated tourism also puts a strain on these delicate ecosystems. Thailand's proactive approach in closing Pling Island demonstrates a commitment to striking a balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

While natural phenomena like El Niño contribute to warmer temperatures, scientists point to human-induced climate change as the bigger culprit. Warmer oceans are the new normal, with Asia experiencing a faster-than-average rise in temperatures.

Pling Island's closure and Phi Phi’s water crisis serve as a stark reminder of that every system has a carrying capacity and we must honour it. It sends the powerful message that even paradise needs a break once in a while to ensure its future remains dazzling.

While the tourism-reliant industry of Thailand could greatly benefit from more visitors, mindful travel would help secure the future of the countrymen.


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