Thailand tries to attract more tourists to Koh Tao island while limiting their impact on environment

KOH TAO, Thailand, June 20 (Xinhua) -- An annual festival is held in the popular diving destination Koh Tao Island in southern Thailand this weekend during which many tourists joined in activities with Thais, while the protection of the underwater world was highly emphasized.

Tourists around the world joined the 13th Koh Tao Festival, enjoying the local food, beverages, and night parties on the tourism-dependent island and also taking part in an event on a beach Saturday Morning to break the Guinness World record for the longest chain of people clasping wrists.

The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkeling since it is the host to various specifies of corals of reef fishes, but these activities also cause damage to coral reefs and thus the underwater eco-system.

According to Yutthasak Supasorn, governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand(TAT), about 600,000 tourists come to Koh Tao annually for scuba diving or snorkeling.

"We have to admit that coral reefs here declined in number and degraded just like other tourist sites around Thailand in the past 10 years." Said Sak-anan Plathong, a scholar from Prince of Songkla University who visited the island in 1999 for research.

But since the last mass coral bleaching across Thailand in 2011, the recovery here in Koh Tao has been swift and dramatic, compared with coral reefs around Phi Phi Island and Mu Koh Surin Islands, said Sak-anan, while praising local people in Koh Tao for their commitment in the protection of coral reefs instead of waiting the government to help.

The local community established the Save Koh Tao Club in 2000 to conserve the environment there.

Sak-anan mentioned that some coral reefs around islands in Phuket province are facing tough situation now.

Sak-anan asked tourists to avoid treading on coral reefs, breaking them or even feeding fish, as these acts may damage the underworld world and are against laws and regulations of Thailand.

According to Sak-anan, some tourist guides let their customers standing on coral reefs and he also asked the government to do more job on those guides.

Yutthasak said his authority will cooperate with the local community and tourists to achieve a balance between tourism development and environmental protection and the experience they got here may be helpful for other places in the kingdom.

"The clasping wrists event we held symbolize a starting point of our hand in hand cooperation to achieve the balance," Yutthasak said.

According to Thai media Nation, over 3, 500 people joined in the clasping wrists event, thus breaking the record achieved by Japan with a chain of 2, 211 participants in March, 2016.

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