Indonesian parliament urges gov’t against Komodo National Park entry fee hike amid protests

The Komodo National Park is home to around 2,800 Komodo dragons, according to official data from 2018. Photo: Unsplash
The Komodo National Park is home to around 2,800 Komodo dragons, according to official data from 2018. Photo: Unsplash

Amid ongoing protests from local guides and tourism associations following an entry fee hike for the two main islands of Komodo National Park, the House of Representatives (DPR) has asked the central government to reconsider the plan.

Yesterday, Dede Yusuf, the deputy chair of DPR’s Commission X overseeing tourism affairs, said parliament was never consulted about the new price policy, which covers the islands of Komodo and Padar.

As previously reported, tourists have to pay IDR3.75 million (US$250) for an annual pass to see Komodo dragons roam the earth on the national park’s two main islands as of Monday. With the new price, guests can come and witness the dragons as many times as they want in a year.

Before the price hike, foreign tourists were charged IDR150,000 (US$10.68) per person to enter the islands, while domestic tourists were charged IDR5,000 (US$0.36) on weekdays. Separate fees for extra activities such as snorkeling applied.

Dede, a lawmaker representing the Democratic Party, said parliament was “surprised” by the price hike.

“There was no [communication between parliament and the government]. [Parliament] was on recess [when the price hike was introduced] so we heard the surprising news just like the Borobudur case, and now it has happened to the Komodo National Park,” said Dede.

Dede was referring to a proposed price hike to visit the iconic Borobudur Temple in Central Java, which was scrapped following backlash.

“[We hope] that the government would postpone [the Komodo Park’s price hike] until [they] could rationally explain to parliament as to why the price could reach [IDR3.75 million],” said Dede, who added that while the parliament would be on board with a price hike for the conservation of the dragons, they do not feel the jump should be that high. 

Komodo Island and Padar Island are the two biggest islands of Komodo National Park. Another island famous for its dragons in the park is Rinca Island. The park also includes 26 smaller islands.

Discussions on the harmful impact of heavy tourism activity at Komodo National Park have been going on for years. The idea of implementing an annual fee for a visit to Komodo National Park was actually incepted in 2019.

After having been made official, the price hike prompted protests from local tourism businesses, which reportedly led to unrest and arrests. Indonesia’s Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto later stated that he would evaluate the price hike. 

The protests even spread to Bali, with a Nusa Tenggara youth community living on the Island of Gods expressing their concerns that the price hike would threaten their community’s income from tourism.

“We’re worried that [the ticket prices] are just an excuse for investments in Komodo island,” Rian Ngari, the coordinator of the protests, said. Another Komodo island student, Firmansyah, added that “[they] don’t want to be sacrificed for the sake of conservation and investment.”

An op-ed featured on The Conversation strongly criticized Komodo National Park’s management, highlighting the park’s business-oriented tourism, minimum conservation measures, and neglect of locals who depend on community-based tourism, after their previous main sources of income, agriculture, was set aside in favor of the growing tourism industry. 

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