Thailand’s Maya Bay takes painful hit from hit movie ‘The Beach’

Maya Bay is about to be closed for the first time this year to allow marine life to recover. Source: Shutterstock.

POPULAR MOVIES can increase tourism to the shooting location, which is great to boost the local economy. However, if the visitor influx isn’t managed sustainably, it could also come at great cost to the environment and lead to overtourism.

Movie-induced tourism is one of the most effective methods of promotion to potential visitors. Those who are curious enough, with time and money to spare, will likely book the next flight out.

However, not all locations can cope with the tourism boom.

The Beach, a British-American adventure drama film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Guillaume Canet, was shot in Maya Bay, a spectacular beach cove located 30 minutes away from the popular Phi Phi island in Thailand.

The movie became a hit in 2000, and so did the location. But it was Maya Bay that really took the hit.

According to ChampionTraveler, a popular film can increase tourism to a prominent location in the movie anywhere between 25 and 300 percent. For example, Harry Potter increased tourism to filming locations in some cities and towns as much as 200 percent, Braveheart increased tourism to Scotland by 300 percent, and Mission Impossible 2 increased tourism to Sydney National Park by 200 percent.

The Beach increased tourism to Thailand by 22 percent – and this is on top of the inbound tourism numbers that Thailand is already getting.

There are even independent tours to accommodate tourists, banking in on the film’s fame to advertise, and this one specifically states, “Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful beach that’s sheltered by 100-meter high cliffs on three sides. Situated on the island Phi Phi Ley, this bay was made famous by the movie ‘The Beach’ featuring Leonardo Di Caprio, which was filmed there in 2000.”

Unfortunately, Maya Bay is about to be closed for the first time this year.

Due to “critical” damage to its corals, tourists will be turned away between June and September this year ahead of the high season to allow marine life to recover. According to Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Fisheries deputy dean Thon Thamrongnawasawat, 77 percent of the total 238.4 square kilometers of coral reefs in all of Thailand’s waters have been devastated – a 30 percent increase from a decade ago.

Polluted water from beach-front hotels, plastic rubbish dumped in the sea and physical damage from boat anchors are the cause of the coral damage.

“Temporary closures can help to a certain extent. But an ideal solution is a permanent closure, which is not possible due to our reliance on tourism revenue,” Thon said.

Source: Shutterstock.

It is without a doubt that some movies, as well as TV shows, were filmed in some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Take the Lord of the Rings trilogy or HBO’s Game of Thrones, for example.

There is nothing quite like exploring those places and taking in the sights and sounds in person. But more conversations need to be had and more steps need to be taken to protect iconic filming locations from environmental damage.