Another one bites the dust as the world’s richest man is the latest victim of Thailand’s charm. After visiting Phuket with his wife Melinda and enjoying the lovely beaches, Bill Gates has discussed interest in returing to Thailand regularily if there was a private location to moor their 54-meter yacht. There have been reports that he plans to build an island 3 km off the coast of Phuket. The island would feature several exclusive homes, a hotel and a marina for ‘mega-yachts.’
Currently, Thailand is named Asia’s premier destination for marine tourism and marinas. The exisiting Royal Phuket Marina does not suffice for the large yachts since the low tide beaches those large vessels. The proposed man-made island would solve that problem for the super rich yacht lovers. It would also boost high end travel since it attracts tourists with money to spend on luxuries such as yachts and exclusive tropical island homes.
Thai officials from the Tourism Authority of Thailand are enthusiastic about these reports as they see the project as beneficial for Thailand’s image and it’s tourism industry. TAT sees Gates’interest as a result of effective campaigning to draw tourists back after the tsunami.
Those concerned about environmental issues say that the effects of creating a man-made island in Phang Nga Bay have to be evaluated before undertaking the project. The unique ecosystems in the area is already damaged by mass tourism in the area who want to enjoy the natural beauty of the limestone islands, coral reefs and marine wildlife. A balance of commercial and environmental interests should be reach to preserve the landscape that lures tourists to Thailand in the first place.
The marina is in the early planning stages and has not been approved yet. Many details need to be worked out as to exact location, provincial jurisdiction and the overall feasibility of the man-made island. A press conference will by held at Royal Phuket marina on May 25 to announce the current plans.