Can The Full Moon Party Ever Be Revived?
The BBC article on the death of the Full Moon Party begins by painting a rather pessimistic picture of the future of the Full Moon Party and backpacker tourism in Koh Phangnan, or Thailand in general, but then adds its own spin to make it appear that the death of the Full Moon Party may actually be a good thing, by quoting the opinion of a local hotelier who has been opposed to it from the start.
I agree that this is a “reset” but it certainly isn’t a Thailand specific one; this is global. If backpackers disappear from Thailand they will also disappear from every other part of the world too. There are many ways we could look at this. What are the possible reasons for the prolonged closure to tourism? Well, here’s one which was mentioned in the article. “The environmental impact has been enormous”. Tons of garbage, destruction of the natural landscapes, the environment can’t cope. For this reason, Maya Bay was closed well over a year ago now, and is set to remain closed for some time to come, to allow the environment to rehabilitate. Ditto for Boracay in the Philippines. One could conclude that this is one of the unnamed reasons for continuing to keep the country closed for a while longer. A 6 month closure just doesn’t seem to be long enough it seems….maybe another 6 months will do the trick.
It’s clear though that while a balance between environmental protection and the economy has to be struck, the current extreme measures aren’t going to stick long-term, since the economic impact will soon be too much to bear. I believe that while a re-invention of Koh Phangnan remains possible (just like Vang Vieng in Laos kind of reinvented itself after the 2011 banning of riverside bars, which largely ended the consumption of drugs and tubing while stoned almost overnight, resulting in an exodus of young drugged up western teenagers that were subsequently replaced by Korean couples and families as well as more socially conscientious tourists); ultimately, some form of Full Moon Party should, or even will, re-emerge in the future. It may not be as big as it once was (you can’t expect it to be at first, given that it will take time for tourists to start traveling again once borders re-open) but it’s a bit hard to imagine that mass tourism, of which the Full Moon Party was a perfect example, will vanish overnight never to return.
Besides, some of the premises made in the article aren’t even believable. Like for one, expecting the country to turn its back on tourism overnight…many promises and much scheming and committee meetings to develop other industries in place of mass tourism have come to…pretty much nothing. Johnathan Head has been in Thailand long enough to know how the Thai government operates, and not to take anything they say at face value. In this article, he displays his naivety. A recent Bangkok Post article implies that by 2023, nothing will come of a supposed plan to develop other industries in place of tourism, because by then, it is presumed that 60 million tourists will visit Thailand making up 25% of GDP, significantly more than even before the pandemic! In other words, no lessons will have been learned from the current crisis. The TAT believes things will simply go back to normal in a year or two and everyone will be flooding back, so “hang in there” tourism operators!
Johnathan Head also mixes in the Phuket plan with the STV one, even though the Phuket plan has long since been dead and buried. The STV itself has been revised about a dozen times and we don’t know if it will ever take off!
I think that whenever the World Health Organization decides to call it quits on this pandemic, we will see borders re-open quite quickly and that will also mean unrestricted travel throughout the country once admitted, and not with restrictions as the Phuket plan called for. The only question is whether we will need either a covid-19 negative test, or a digital health pass as a condition of entry or not. If we do, it will largely mirror what other countries are doing. https://v-healthpassport.co.uk/2020/05/cyber-tech-company-signs-technology-deal-to-supply-50m-covi-pass-digital-health-passports-to-15-countries/
So will backpackers ever return to Thailand? Probably yes. Thailand isn’t going to become Monaco overnight, no matter how much the Thai government may want to envision the tourist of the future as being someone who comes over on their private jet and spends 1 million baht a day, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Or perhaps ever.
The author of this article cannot be contacted.