Thailand identified its cleanest beaches and not a single one was a popular beach destination rated by the likes of TripAdvisor.
The Pollution Control Department bases its top 10 list on a scorecard of strict environmental checks of land and sea conditions at all of the country’s beaches.
Predictably, the top beaches were in national parks protected from consumer activities such as hotel and tourism developments. Some of them close for six months to allow the sensitive environment to recover.
The PCD in the past released scorecards for all popular beach resorts. They were not good reading and probably someone suggested that it would be more appropriate to highlight only the beaches that excelled.
Thailand’s tourism industry needs to know the state of its popular beach destinations on the overall scorecard. Hiding their performance could be counter productive.
PCD has a duty to release the full data not just the shining stars. If popular tourist beaches are a considerable distance off the purity of national park beaches, then knowing the facts might prompt a response – a campaign to reverse the pollution and save tourist destinations.
For example, we need to know how Pattaya compares with Samet and Chang Island. There should be comparisons between Samui, Krabi and Phuket.
What we have is a list that tells us what we already know; national park beaches are pristine, they are always the cleanest.
But perhaps the alarm bell rang at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, as it recently launched a massive clean-up campaign on Samet Island located in the Gulf of Thailand’s eastern seaboard. It was obviously way off the PCD radar as far as clean beaches go and needed urgent attention.
The TAT governor deserves to be applauded for taking action and recognising that with all the benefits that tourism brings there are also downsides. One of them is over development that leads to pristine beaches being overwhelmed by plastic garbage.
Phuket’s private sector moved on the pollution front too with the Phuket Hotel Association launching a campaign to sweep the island’s beaches clean of plastic garbage.
They are token efforts. Popular beaches that have so much to offer if they are clean and protected deserve much more attention from relevant government departments. They need to outlaw the plastic bag and bottle for starters. Once you leave major cities in Thailand there are very few garbage services available. Tourists and residents might dump their plastic bottles in bins, but where does the garbage go? Someone burns it, buries it or at best someone might sell it to be recycled.
TAT’s and Phuket Hotel Association’s efforts should inspire the tourism industry across the country to do its bit to keep Thailand clean and attractive.