Thailand’s spectacular Maya Bay, the main filming location of Hollywood blockbuster The Beach is to be closed for the first time this year amid “critical” damage to corals due to a tourist boom.

Tourists are to be turned away from the renowned strand, known for its lush greens and clear water, between June and September this year ahead of the high season, national park officials said.

Coral damage at Thailand’s popular holiday destinations has reached critical levels due to the booming tourism industry, according to a prominent marine ecologist.

Seventy-seven percent of the total of 238.4 sq km of coral reefs in all of Thailand’s waters has been devastated, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

The figure is an alarming increase from 30% a decade ago, he said.

Tourism revenue accounts for more than 20% of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

But the booming industry – which sees a constant rise in tourist numbers, from 32 million visitors in 2016 to 35 million in 2017 with an estimated 38 million this year – has raised concerns over environmental damage and the sustainability of the industry.

Thon named polluted water from beach-front hotels as the biggest cause of coral damage. Other factors include plastic rubbish dumped in the sea and physical damage from boat anchors.

Noticeable coral bleaching and damage in recent years have led to annual closures of some popular islands to allow marine life to recover.

“Temporary closures can help to a certain extent. But an ideal solution is a permanent closure, which is not possible due to our reliance on tourism revenue,” Thon said. – dpa