SURAT THANI : Koh Samui intends to be a low-carbon tourist destination in the next 3-5 years by reducing energy consumption and resolving its environmental problems while increasing hotel room rates by 30-50%.
Thanongsak Somwong, chairman of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, said rapid growth resulting from the tourism boom is causing Koh Samui to face serious energy shortages.
The island suffered a three-day electricity blackout last year, while there have been problems with wastewater treatment as well.
Koh Samui obtains all of its electricity from the mainland, with consumption increasing by 20% each year.
General view of Koh Samui. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The local administration has raised the electricity supply to 100 megawatts from 95 MW, but this is expected to support the island's growth for no more than a decade if that, said Mr Thanongsak.
"We're seeking solutions to help us grow sustainably, and low-carbon tourism is one answer," said Mr Thanongsak.
Twarath Sutabutr, deputy director-general of the Alternative Energy and Efficiency Department, said Koh Samui has been chosen by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping to become a model low-carbon island in the region.
But tourist locations on the island remain at risk from electricity outages in the long term, as they consume four times more electricity than do regular households.
For example, air conditioners account for half of hotels' power consumption.
Koh Samui and other less-developed destinations such as Surat Thani's Koh Tao and Trat's Koh Chang will implement three main strategies to achieve low-carbon tourism, said Mr Twarath.
But he said they would not be a good fit for big tourism cities such as Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
For Koh Samui, the first measure would be a revision of the city plan and zoning for clear identification of commercial and green zones.
In commercial zones, buildings could be constructed higher than 12 metres.
The second measure would be to develop a public transportation system on the island, as people now have to use their personal vehicles.
The third measure would be to reduce energy consumption and develop alternatives such as solar energy, which can be developed to supply up to half the total electricity demand on the island.
Another alternative energy could come from waste.
Mr Thanongsak said a few hotel operators on Koh Samui have already adjusted themselves and made their properties environmentally friendly, introducing many measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
"Green hotels are considered unique and attractive by many foreign tourists, and they can set their room rates higher than regular hotels, as much as 50% higher sometimes," he said.
The Energy Ministry has proposed 5-8 billion baht to help develop low-carbon infrastructure on Koh Samui and will seek cabinet approval for the budget in October.
About the author
- Writer: Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn
Position: Business Reporter