Thai beach made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's 'The Beach' will stay shut until 2021

Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh Island became world famous after a Hollywood crew set foot on its sands in 1999.
Image: Tourists get off a speedboat onto Maya Bay, on the southern Thai island of Koh Phi Phi
Tourists get off a speedboat at Maya Bay last year.Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Nat Sumon and Linda Givetash

BANGKOK, Thailand — A Thai tourist spot closed off to the public after being overrun by travelers inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio's movie "The Beach" is likely to reopen in 2021.

Thai officials announced in May 2018 that Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh Island would be off-limits indefinitely after mass tourism spoiled its coral reefs, sea life and white sand.

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Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and adviser to the government's national parks department, told NBC News on Friday that its closure would be remain in effect for two more years.

That period is needed to build facilities — including a pier, walking trail and sanitation systems — to better handle the return of tourists, Thamrongnawasawat said.

Maya Bay became world famous after a Hollywood crew set foot on its sands in 1999 to film "The Beach," the dark backpacker tale based on a novel by Alex Garland.

In recent years, it had seen around 5,000 tourists daily. A study is aiming to determine how many visits should be permitted in the future, he said.

The government had previously said a limit of 2,000 daily tourists was likely when the bay reopens. An e-ticketing system will also be installed to manage visits.

Thailand had about 35 million international visitors in 2017, a five-fold increase in little more than two decades.

Nat Sumon reported from Bangkok, and Linda Givetash from London.

Associated Press contributed.