Komodo Islands tourism protests $400 fee to see dragons

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Entry to Komodo National Park has increased 18 times overnight, leading to strikes among Indonesian tourism workers who make a living taking tourists to see dragons.

Komodo dragons are the largest reptiles in the world and the biggest tourist attraction in Indonesia’s Flores National Park. Growing up to three meters in length, there are less than 3,500 giant lizards found exclusively in the island chain.

Now the cost of visiting dragons is also huge – and local tourism workers are not satisfied.

On Monday, the cost of visiting the park was increased from $30 to $400. It’s a move the government says will help protect natural treasures, but hundreds of guides and ferry operators who serve the park are unhappy.

Earlier this week, Tourism Minister Sandiago Uno called for talks to end protests that have led to the arrest of dozens of people, according to local news KompasTV.

The Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara and the islands on which the dragons are found are a Unesco World Heritage Site. In 2019, it attracted 222,000 international visitors on cruises, small boats and flights from the neighboring island of Bali.

However, the disruption of the pandemic has forced the country to rethink its tourism plan – introducing a tourist tax for the few people who have returned. There are now around 50,000 visitors to the dragons.

While the Ministry of Tourism says the increase is intended to help conserve the islands, locals say the dragons are being turned into cash cows to help recoup lost tourism dollars across Indonesia.

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In 2020, construction began on a controversial visitor center in the World Heritage Park. A video of a construction vehicle facing off against a giant poisonous reptile has gone viral and has been adopted as a symbol for those protesting developments at the nature reserve.

A visit to the World Heritage area of ​​Komodo National Park will now cost almost $400.  Photo / Farjuddin Mudzakk, Unsplash
A visit to the World Heritage area of ​​Komodo National Park will now cost nearly $400. Photo / Farjuddin Mudzakk, Unsplash

Komodo National Park is not the only country to raise prices or introduce a “tourist tax” after the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Bhutan tripled its daily visit fee from $65 to $200. Venice has finally announced a January 2023 start date for its long-considered tourist tax, with a $10 entrance fee for day-trippers.

Some tourism businesses fear that rising prices will delay the long-term recovery in visitor numbers for short-term revenue gain. Something that Komodo National Park ferry operators and guides fear will be bad for their livelihoods.

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