The regional government of East Nusa Tenggara has announced plans to charge international travellers to Komodo National Park an entrance fee of US$500 per head, nearly 50 times the current Rp225,000 (US$16), causing some concern within the travel trade.
For domestic tourists, the entrance fee is currently US$10.
Viktor Laiskodat, the new governor of East Nusa Tenggara, was quoted by detik.com last Saturday as saying: “The (proposed) price is reasonable as the Komodo dragon is a rare species and (its) habitat is only found here, therefore, (the entry fee) should not be so cheap.”
Citing Bhutan as an example, the governor said: “You enter Bhutan immigration check point, you pay US$250.”
As the national park is a conservation area, Viktor stated that “it needs protection, and protection needs a high budget”. The funds will be used for tourism development as well as the conservation of the Komodo dragon and its habitat, he added.
Responding to the report, Leonardus Nyoman, director of Flores Exotic Tours, said: “What the governor is saying is a vision, but it is a sensitive issue that caused reactions from our business partners from Germany and France.”
The regional government could propose the tariff but had no authority to set its own prices, remarked Leonardus. Indonesia’s national parks come under the Ministry of Forestry, and all entry fees to national parks are determined by the central government according to categories and classes, he added.
“I wish the governor would discuss with local stakeholders before making (such a shocking) public statement,” he said.
With Komodo growing in popularity only in the last few years, Ng Sebastian, owner of Incito Vacations, opined it was not time to increase the entrance fee yet.
“I understand the aim is to prevent the national park from becoming a mass tourist destination,” he commented. “However, the first thing to do is to set the carrying capacity of the national park, which we do not have. Next is to open more gates to the Komodo and Rinca islands so that boats are not flocked at the existing ones, creating congestions.”
Ng suggested that discussions to be held between the governor and central government first before imposing a “single charge”. Currently, multiple charges including ranger and camera fees are now levied on top of the entrance fee, he explained.
In defence of the governor’s statement, Rocky Praputranto, chairman of East Nusa Tenggara Tourism Board, said: “The US$500 mark represents the governor’s vision of positioning Komodo National Park at par with international parks and destinations overseas. He used Bhutan as an example, and I do not think the price proposed was fixed. He just thinks that the current price is much too low for a park like Komodo.
“The Komodo dragon is the main but not the sole attraction of the national park; it has great underwater wealth too. The governor wants the park to be well maintained and facilities, such as public toilets, improved too.”