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The Koh Phi Phi Islands (Essay Sample)

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the paper is a descriptive essay on the tourism industry in the Koh Phi Phi Islands of Thailand.

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The Koh Phi Phi Islands
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The Koh Phi Phi Islands
Introduction
Tourism is often regarded as the fastest growing service industry worldwide, whereas ecotourism is said to be the fastest growing component (the economist, 1998; Chon, 2000, pg.1). The tourism potential of natural areas is vast. Tourism and in particular eco-tourism, is increasingly growing rapidly in most parts of southern Asia, particularly Indonesia, malaysia and thailand
Thailand is chiefly a tourism kingdom, with this economic sector contributing 14.3 percent of the country's GDP (Graci, et al., 2010, pg. 90). Its premier tourist sites can be categorized into three primary geographical locations, Northern Thailand, Central Thailand and southern Thailand. Northern Thailand is celebrated for the cultural experiences it affords, such as trekking adventures in the hill tribe areas and exploration of the temples in the ancient Siam capital. Central Thailand offers the attraction of Bangkok, boasting high-end luxury hotels, cultural events and a burgeoning nightlife. Southern Thailand on the other hand is branded the relaxation area, where sun, sand and the sea meet (Nelson, et al., 2007, pg. 27).
This diversified offering did not emerge spontaneously, but is a product of the country nurturing of its tourism sector (Nelson, et al., 2007, pg. 27). Tourism has since then become an important source of revenue in Thailand especially due to its beautiful beaches and exotic flavor. In 1982, during the economic slump, the government heavily promoted tourism to counter the slump. As a result, there was a large push to create new beaches and island resorts to attract foreign visitors (Baker, et al., 2005; Nelson, et al., 2007, pg. 28).
However, tourism resources have been exploited to produce short-term profits rather than long-run gains for the entire economy and local development. This has resulted in the degradation of the environment and culture and many tourist attractions have subsequently closed down or lost popularity (Lebel, et al., 2010, pg. 210).
This paper examines the case of Koh Phi Phi, an island in southern Thailand, which after the tsunami of 2004 was thinking of moving towards a more sustainable form of tourism after years of unchecked development. It will identify both sustainable and unsustainable practices in the tourism industry of Koh Phi Phi, and propose measures which can be undertaken to move the industry in a new sustainable direction.
Introduction to the Koh Phi Phi Islands
The islands of Koh Phi Phi are located in Southerneast asia, a short boat ride from Thailand's main tourist island of Phuket in the Andaman sea. It is located in a National Marine Park. Although there are a few international resorts on the island, developments are predominantly in Tingsai, the main town. The island started as a back packer destination but gained immense popularity and underwent intense costruction after The Beach was filmed on Phi Phi Leh in 2000 (Graci, et al., 2010, pg. 91). It is a delightful place to spend some days relaxing on its beautiful beaches, discovering its numerous coves and bays, as well as climbing its precipitous vertical peaks and investigating the huge caves that hide the edible nests of swifts
Before 2004, tourism numbers had reached approximately 1.2 million years (Graci, et al., 2010, pg. 91). However, the island suffered from enviromental issues such as lack of or no fresh water, expensive generator-produced electricity, ineffective waste management , beach degradation and rapid development with no formal planning (Dodds, 2010, pg. 255). The residents faced appaling conditions; standing waste water, strong odours and ground water pollution from overflowing septic tanks. In December 2004 a tsunami struck Koh Phi Phi. The major reef was damaged and a large part of the infrustracture was destroyed this resulted to tourist numbers going down from 1.2 million to approximately 500,000 per annum. (Graci, et al., 2010, pg. 91). This thereby necesitated the need for the redevelopment of the Koh Phi Phi into a more sustainable ecosystem, stakeholders came together to discuss the need for a more sustainable tourism development and what role they can play in this development.
The Negative and Positive Effects of Tourism
Tourism has resulted to both benefits and loss to the residents of Koh Phi Phi. It generates positive economic impacts to the local community, however, it has also resulted to a worsened income distribution with the gap between the rich and poor widening unfairly. The tourism industry predominantly benefited the big businesses (Chon, 2000, pg 197).
While tourism can benefit local communities, the behavior of some visitors may also cause cultural tension. Social cultural impacts arise from the differences in culture between themselves and visitors. Due to difference in culture, some tourists behavior is perceived by the local as culturally inappropriate. Behaviors such as climbing the Buddha statues, sunbathing naked, males walking topless in the streets and females wearing provocative and skimpy clothing. This raises a concern as the local community are of the opinion that their youngsters may mimic the visitors' inappropriate behavior (Dodds, 2010, pg. 262).
The most direct negative impact that tourism has had on Koh Phi Phi Islands was on the immediate natural appearance. The picturesque sorrounding Koh Phi Phi has been scarred by the frenzied construction of resorts and hotels, without the slightest consideration for the aesthetics or the environment. Additionally, most of the coral rocks have also died due to the pollution of the ocean waters through the direct drainage of phosphates from shampoos, washing and effluents which upsets the pH balance of the water and marine life (Graci, et al., 2010, pg. 93).
Pressures originating from eco-tourism have also resulted in degradation of the very ecosystems on which they depend. There has been widespread soil erosion as a result of the excessive number of tourists, this is especially so, on popular hiking trails and in areas where the soil is fragile. There is also alterations and variations of marine structure, in particular corals, this is as a result of diving, boating, and fishing (Tourism Ethic and Development Programmes , 2006, pg.10). The marine environment has undergone tremendous degradation from the damage of coral by anchors and scuba divers and the pollution from the numerous motor boats and the incessant discarding of raw untreated waste which is continuously being pumped into the sea by the hotels along the shore.
Leakages and negative externalities have also been brought about by tourism. Environmental leakages such as water pollution and strong odours have been brought about by mass tourism and the lack of the hotels to have a capacity of handling waste. Economic leakages have come up in the form of reduced fish in the surrounding areas, this has forced many families whose livelihoods depended on fishing to seek other means of living. Additionally, there has been social leakages, whereby the moral values of the local indigenous people have gone down through the acceptance of prostitution as a respectable way of earning a living in a society which is predominantly Muslim.
The Positive Effects of Tourism to the island encompass the following; eco-tourism has fostered a better appreciation of the natural environment and their intrinsic and economic worth . It also has provided a greater exposure of both the public as well as governing institutions to nature and the necessity of conservation. Additionally, it has acted as a form of motivation that has resulted in the designation of natural ecosystems into niches of conservation and protection (Nelson, et al., 2007, Pg. 15)
Tourism helps improve the local economy, livelihoods and living conditions. This it achieves through increased income for existing local businesses, creation of business opportunities and generates tourism related careers. Additionally, it has the positive effect that it motivates the local community to preserve local traditions , stimulates cultural exchange and encourages cooperation among local residents. (Lebel, et al., 2010, pg. 215)
The booming of the tourism industry directly and indirectly created attractive new sources of income and jobs for local people, that is, through staff members and workers at resorts and hotels, it also provides a new market for local production and subsequent revenues are invested in service and small businesses mostly oriented towards the tourism industry such as souvenir shops, restaurants, and guided tour businesses (Spring, et al., 2009, pg. 1138)
Sustainability in Koh Phi Phi Islands
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) defines sustainable tourism as “tourism which results to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be filled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems” (Lebel, et al., 2010, pg. 212; McKercher, 2003). Additionally, sustainable tourism should follow the principles of inter-generational equity, intra-generational equity, environmental protection and public participation.
Tourists are increasingly visiting many destinations, including Thailand, however, several well known tourism destinations have bore the brunt as a result of these visits, this mainly is owing to the lack of sustainable development, and the relatively fragile tourism resources which are being negatively affected by the rampant growth of mass tourism (Dodds, 2010, pg. 251; Wong, 1998; Wahnschafft, 1982).
Tourism development is often sought predominantly in relatively poor warm water islands, as one of a limited number of economic options. Pristine tourism resources have been introduced to m...
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