This month’s return of the popular Full Moon Party means more than just a resurgence of the boisterous gathering of foreign visitors. The good news is that it could help resurrect a cash-starved local economy.
The event is held once a month on full moon night at Haad Rin on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani. Full Moon Parties are one of Thailand’s biggest draws for young, hard-partying fun-seekers.
Before Covid-19 struck, the all-night party was known to attract between 10,000 and 30,000 tourists.
For almost two years Haad Rin has been without its main draw, although lately provincial officials have experimented with bringing it back.
Thanks to the Government’s easing of Covid-19 rules this has meant the return of many overseas tourists. Furthermore, many young tourists will have heard of a Full Moon Party resuming on April 16, though with some strings attached.
Full Moon Party Hiatus and Relaunch Trials
In the early days of Covid-19 in Thailand, the last Full Moon Party took place on Feb 8, 2020.
Following the outbreak, the authorities ordered mass gatherings and parties to be curtailed or suspended.
Leaders of local government, district police, and public health officials met to discuss the event, ultimately deciding it must be postponed indefinitely from March 2020.
After the pandemic halted overseas tourist arrivals more than a year later, the government announced the reopening of tourism on July 1, 2021. In addition, it announced the piloting of the Phuket Sandbox program.
Two weeks later, visitors could use the sandbox program to visit nearby Koh Samui and Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan. Onward trips gave hope that the Full Moon Party could be revived.
The hope came true on Oct 22 last year when tourism operators on Haad Rin in Koh Phangan were given permission to organize the event in a Covid-safe setting. With the usual bonfires, fire jugglers, and club music, the party followed the theme of “Back to the Roots.”
The nightlife operators who struggled financially to find their feet were missing, although a few were back selling food.
First Relaunch Trial, Koh Phangan
The majority of partygoers were foreign tourists staying on Koh Phangan. But new restrictions applied, such as passing on-site temperature checks, completing contact tracing forms, and providing evidence of double vaccination.
As a result of the first relaunch trial, Koh Phangan had to wait almost five months for the second trial to be held on March 17. There were more tourists this time around, many of them coming from Koh Samui by ferry.
While both experiments came and went, plans were being made to have the Full Moon Party return on April 16, which coincides with Songkran, a five-day festival that starts on Wednesday.
The party is expected to see its highest turnout since the end of the pandemic due to the long weekend exodus.
In an interview with the Haad Rin Tourism Association, Thawit Somwang told the Bangkok Post the April 16 party will focus on the concept of “Back to the Roots”. Organizers have requested permission from the local authorities to hold the party and are confident the request will be granted.
With the new-normal protocols in place, the party can get underway after a year of planning.
A Significant Drop in Tourists Numbers
According to him, the success of the event was due to the lifting of many Covid-19 restrictions and residents adapting to public health safety measures while resuming the tourism business.
In addition, more than 90% of residents are vaccinated and Koh Phangan is an island, which makes it ideal for preventing infections.
However, due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, we don’t expect many visitors from Israel, France, and the US [for the party on April 16] since it is now the low tourist season and there is a significant drop in tourists from those countries,” he said.
Scandinavian countries have attracted a steady stream of tourists.
Approximately 10,000 overseas tourists are expected to attend the full moon party from hotels and other accommodations on Haad Rin. Another 5,000 tourists might come from other parts of the island.
Island Full Moon Party Restrictions
In order to comply with the regulations issued by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the party must wind down by 11 p.m. Mr. Thawit, however, said that he believes the authorities should allow the full moon party to continue until 1 am or 2 am the following morning.
In his view, many tourists spend most of the day sunbathing at the beach before returning to their hotels and going out for dinner. They normally arrive at the full moon party at 8 pm or 9 pm, and if it ends at 11 pm, they will only have a few hours at the party.
Beach vendors must register and beach entrances and exits are clearly marked. Visitors also must be fully vaccinated and have passed ATK tests.
He said, “We realized we had to establish rules to rein in the party. We won’t tolerate anything that will tarnish Koh Phangan’s reputation.”
Koh Phangan’s tourism-dependent economy has been largely driven by the Party. The party attracts people from at least 15 countries and is promoted worldwide.
Tourism brought in cash through purchases of airline tickets, ferries, accommodation, meals, tour guides, and vendors. This kept the entire local economy humming.
Koh Phangan’s three tambons as well as Koh Tao nearby have been closely associated with the party for 30 years. In addition to hotel and restaurant projects, the party has given birth to a wide range of tourism-related initiatives.