A row of banknotes sparks a protest at Indonesia’s Komodo Park

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Tourist services suspended as government raises entrance ticket price from US$10 to US$250 due to conservation concerns

Rafael Todowela (center), a tour operator from Labuan Bajo, a tourist town in Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara province, was among three people arrested on August 1 for protesting the government’s decision to raise ticket prices for Komodo Park. (Picture: YouTube screenshot)

Posted: Aug 02, 2022 03:37 GMT

Updated: Aug 02, 2022 03:56 GMT

Tourist operators and associations in the predominantly Catholic Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara have halted all services for a month to protest a hike in entry fees to Komodo National Park.

The closure came into effect on August 1 after 24 tourism operators and associations signed a memorandum of understanding on July 30 in Labuan Bajo, a tourist town in West Manggarai district and the gateway to the park.

Tour operators have described the government’s ticketing policy as “overbearing”.

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“We…sign this agreement to protest against an authoritarian policy of the central and regional governments regarding the increase in the entrance fee for the park which begins to be applied on August 1,” the pact reads.

“We agree to stop all kinds of tourist services in the park and all tourist destinations in this district from August 1 until August 31.”

The pact also warned that any operator who breached the agreement would face [dire] consequences.

“Farmers who supplied vegetables to hotels will lose their income”

“If a certain actor or tourist association violates this agreement within the time limit, their facilities will be set on fire,” they said.

Sunspirit for Justice and Peace signatory Anno Susabun claimed that with ticket prices rising, the government is seeking to establish a monopoly and commercialize the park.

“We must fight against these monopoly practices. And this fight must start with tourism players [and associations] terribly affected by the move,” he told UCA News.

He said he feared that the rising prices would also lead to economic losses among the local people.

“For example, farmers who used to supply vegetables to hotels will lose income as hotels no longer need their supplies due to fewer tourists,” he said.

He noted that by signing the MoU, tourism operators are pressuring the government to reverse its decision.

“Almost 95% of the inhabitants who depend solely on tourism will have no choice but to return to the sea”

“We want them to undo the price hike and restore the original price,” he said.

The government has increased the price of admission tickets to the park from US$10 per person to US$250 for both domestic and international tourists. Admission tickets are only available through an online application controlled by the provincial crown corporation, PT Flobamor.

Doni Parera, a local environmental activist, pointed out that the price hike did not align with the government’s conservation concerns.

“Increasing the price of entrance tickets means that the number of tourists will decrease. Thus, almost 95% of the inhabitants who depend solely on tourism will have no choice but to return to the sea. [for a living],” he said.

“The problem is that they no longer have fishing tools. All have been sold. They can choose the simplest technique to fish using like trawlers which can destroy marine ecosystems.

The shutdown of tourist services led to the arrest of three tourism actors, including Rafael Todowela, another signatory.

“We see that the price increase was decided at the wrong time”

West Manggarai Police Chief Felli Hermanto said the arrests came as their protests threatened social order.

Father Alfons Segar, Vicar General of Ruteng Diocese has confirmed that Bishop Siprianus Hormat wrote a letter to President Joko Widodo asking for a solution to the Komodo Park crisis.

The priest said Bishop Hormat’s letter echoed the concerns of another July letter where he called for the promotion of “holistic tourism covering all dimensions of life and common well-being.”

“We see that the price increase was decided at the wrong time because tourism in Labuan Bajo and on the island of Flores, in general, is still trying to increase following the Covid-19 pandemic”, he said. he declares.

He also called on all parties concerned to sit down in a dialogue to deal with the issue.

Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for being the natural habitat of giant lizards known as “Komodo dragons”. The park covers three islands – Komodo, Padar and Rinca – where rugged hills, thorny green vegetation, white sandy beaches and coral-swelling blue waters are among the main tourist attractions.

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