Thailand Urges Selfie-Crazy Tourists to Stop Damaging Tree on Trat Islet

Thai authorities have asked tourists to be more careful with a lone tree on a small island off the country’s eastern coast, as it has recently been hit by over-tourism.

The uninhabited Koh Khai Hua Rok islet in Trat province is only a few meters wide and is home to only the tree and its roots. However, visitors have flocked to the remote area in recent months after a famous traveler on Facebook said the site resembled a scene from a popular Thai comic.

The government only allows five tourists to visit the islet at a time but the tree, a xylocarpus rumphii, has been severely damaged by rampant tourism.

After inspecting the islet on Tuesday last week, local authorities said selfie-crazy people climb on the tree to take photos. The review also showed that some branches had been broken off and its large root appeared to have been trampled on repeatedly.

Koh Mak Tambon Administrative Organization maintenance director Lertrob Saithongpu said the tree trunk had bent more than it did before the site became a popular tourist spot.

According to Mr. Lertrob, the local administration has started to develop a plan to conserve the xylocarpus rumphii with measures that include restricting the number of tourists that can visit the island.

Authorities also plan to launch a conservation campaign to raise awareness among visitors and close the spot in certain seasons to prevent over-tourism from further damaging the tree.

Meanwhile, the Thailand Tourism Authority in Trat shared several posts about the tree on Facebook. Dismayed and environmentally concerned netizens criticized tourists for their “lack of conscience” and called on all parties involved to protect the xylocarpus rumphii exemplary.

Thailand is a popular tourist destination among travelers from all over the world. Last week, the government announced it would end compulsory pre-departure registration for foreign arrivals and propose visa-on-arrival restoration for travelers coming from most nations in a bid to boost its pandemic-hit tourism sector and attract the least one million visitors as of October.

According to Thailand’s central bank, the travel and tourism industry accounted for a fifth of the country’s income and jobs, with almost 40 million foreign visitors arriving in 2019.