Flobamor, the travel services management of Komodo National Park, has increased the ranger fee (also known as the naturalist guide service fee) as of May 1, a move that travel industry players in the area say will negatively impact the destination’s image.
Tourists to the park are required to pay ranger fees in order to access to certain spots within the park, with varying rates for different areas. New fees range from 400,000 rupiah (US$28) for short tracks to 450,000 rupiah for long tracks per visitor.
Previously, the rate was set at 120,000 rupiah per group of five tourists.
The fee revision follows soon after Flobamor agreed in January to axe plans to raise Komodo National Park fees.
Abed Frans, chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Association of Indonesian Travel Agencies (ASITA), criticised Flobamor for failing to discuss the move with stakeholders and making the change arbitrarily.
He accused Flobamor of proceeding with fee adjustments under the guise of ranger fees, despite having agreed to cancel its desired entrance fee hike.
Flores Exotic Tours’ director Leonardus Nyoman said that ranger fee hike was unnecessary, as there were no guides accompanying tourists in reality.
“Even if there are, (these guides) are not equipped with basic knowledge about the history of national parks and (some) do not even speak English. Now, tourists are charged a guide fee which costs more than the entrance fee (150,000 rupiah per person on weekdays and 225,000 rupiah on weekends). This is outrageous!” said Leonardus.
To make matters worse for travel players, the fee increase comes at a time when most bookings for the year have already been confirmed and payments made.
Pacto COO Umberto Cadamuro remarked that inconsistencies in park fees could affect Indonesia’s image as a country in the long term and turn partners and overseas clients away to other destinations.
Due to the furore over pricing adjustments, trade players had asked the government to discuss changes with them well ahead of time.
“This helps us in creating new tour package prices. The tourism industry is a ‘future’ business, where what we sell today will only materialise next year,” explained Cadamuro.
Responding to the protest, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), which governs Komodo National Park, has ordered Flobamor to revoke its ranger fee hike.
In addition, Flobamor has to produce within the next four to six weeks a standard operating procedure for raising its service quality to match the higher tariff adjustment. Stakeholders will then assess the suitability of the rates to be applied with the quality of the services to be provided.
Flobamor will also need to demonstrate good governance in its tariff adjustments.