Island Ban in Top of the Gulf continues to hit the marine tourism industry hard
It was in January of this year that several of the islands used by the Pattaya day trip and scuba diving industry were effectively closed by the Royal Thai Navy, becoming off limits to all boats, including scuba diving vessels and sailing yachts. The exact reason for this decision was never given but the consequences are quite severe.
Today the situation has not changed and the Far Islands and two dozen other small sites around Pattaya and Sattahip bays are still closed for day-trips, scuba diving and overnight anchoring.
This situation is hitting the marine industry in several ways. The upmarket day charter companies do not want to join the masses at the one island (Koh Lan) that is still available and now overrun by the speedboats and visitors of Pattaya. These upmarket companies operate out of Ocean Marina and hardly have business left without appealing destinations at a short distance for day trips and half day trips.
This also holds true for the dive operators. Dive trips to the Far Islands (sporting the best dive sites in the area) are no longer possible, resulting eventually in the companies to fold.
Of course also for the yacht owner, Pattaya and Ocean Marina have now less appeal as day trip destinations have fallen off the cliff and only ’farther-away’ overnighters are still possible.
At present some 10 upmarket day-charter companies operating from Ocean Marina are seriously affected by the ban with a total of 50 boats and 250-300 staff involved. Ocean Marina already notices yacht owners leaving the area in favour of Hua Hin or Phuket.
On 23 March the affected leisure marine companies of Pattaya and Jomtien (including the dive operators) had their first ever joint meeting with only one issue on the agenda: the island ban. One of the outcomes was the establishment of a committee in order to discuss the situation with the TAT Chonburi. Unfortunately there is nothing yet to report in terms of results or any progress known.
The Thai Marine Business Association could initiate talks with the Tourism Authority of Thailand on this island ban in order to try to influence the position of the Royal Thai Navy in this and to help preserve and build Pattaya as a flourishing luxury marine (and scuba diving) destination. This would also be in line with general governmental strategy on tourism nationwide.
There are two aspects of this strategy that come into play here:
1) promoting more upmarket tourism in Thailand
2) development of a larger marine leisure industry base in a few dedicated ‘yachting hubs’ around the country.
One of the designated marine tourism ‘hubs’ is the Pattaya – Jomtien area, also crucial for attracting more upmarket tourism to this region.
So not only that the island ban is fully at odds with the national general tourism and marine tourism policy, it also prevents Pattaya to act as a ‘hub’ in the leisure marine development of the region. These facts should be emphasised in any and all talks on this topic to governmental bodies.
For more information on the Island Ban in the Gulf, contact Scott Finsten, Ocean Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org
A news item on same topic and industry meeting of 23rd of March has been posted in the Pattaya One: http://pattayaone.news/en/scuba-island-ban/.