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Plans are afoot by the Tourism and Sports Ministry to zone tourism on Koh Phangan. The move has come through plans to upgrade the islands image from that of simply the home of the infamous full moon party to an island with a lot more to offer visitors.
According to the deputy governor for marketing communication of the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) Sugree Sithivanich, local tourism operators have been spoken to with regards to changing the reputation of the island and it is hoped that Koh Phangan can be promoted as a green island and serve as a role model to develop Koh Lanta and Koh Lipi.
Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, having seen a recent survey, says he sees much potential for the island and the TAT will be key to promoting a new image for Koh Phangan.
Five zones are planned for the island – nightlife, historic and Eco-tourism, spa and learning, the life of fishermen and seafood and lifestyle and trends.
Rather than only promoting Koh Phangan as a party island other interesting activities should be brought to tourist attention said Mr. Sugree. The half moon and dark moon parties are to be called off and activities such as the islands shrimp paste making should be promoted. Shrimp paste making takes place once a year and one kilogram of paste costs around 1,400 baht. The industry is part of the islands local way of life, knowing how much shrimp paste can cost can be interesting he went on to say.
According to TAT figures more than 80% of the operators on the island are local people. They share the same ideas and want to change the image of the island and fend off exploitation by investors.
It is hoped that by zoning the islands tourists will want to stay longer and those who are not attracted to the party aspect of the island will be attracted by the other activities that are currently not so well known.
Many operators and villagers want to offer a wider variety of tourism products, and as well as offering nightlife they would like to conserve the natural environment. Many have expressed a wish to never see a coastal ring road such as the one in Koh Samui and want Koh Phangan to be seen as a green island. Many have started organic farming for their own consumption and for sale.
In 2013 Koh Phangan saw 738,313 tourist arrivals, 110,564 of those were domestic visitors the rest foreign, these numbers generated around 8.10 billion baht.