A key official from the government of East Nusa Tenggara has announced plans to restrict visitor numbers and raise funds for conservation in Komodo National Park.
The proposal, which has been submitted to the Indonesian government but not yet approved, would restrict access to almost all islands and marine areas in the park, significantly reducing the number of tourists able to visit the region.
As part of the plan, a new membership system would allow card-carrying travellers unrestricted access to all areas, but at a price: the proposed fee for an annual membership card is US$ 1,000.
According to government figures, more than 10,000 tourists enter Komodo National Park every month. Of these visitors, an estimated 95% are foreigners. The new proposal would limit arrivals to 50,000 per year, while also dramatically increasing the cost of entry.
“If we issue 50,000 membership cards, that means we’ve already made US$50 million,” explains Mr. Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, who is the Governor of East Nusa Tenggara and the architect of the new membership scheme. “Compared to the Rp 33 billion [US$2.3 million] per year that the Komodo National Park has made over the years, it’s an extraordinary leap,” he added.
Under the governor’s new proposal, Rinca will be the only island exempt from the restrictions; visitors unwilling to pay the full membership fee will still be able to access the island, which is home to wild Komodo dragons. Access to all other areas in the park will be reserved for those who have paid the full annual entry fee. If approved, the new entrance fees will come into effect from 1st January, 2021.
Earlier this year, administrative responsibility for the park was passed from the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) to the NTT Government. KLHK had proposed a limit on tourist arrivals to Komodo Island, in response to concerns that over-tourism was putting pressure on the environment and endangering the island’s dragons.
In October, these closure plans appeared to have been scrapped: “Komodo Island will not be closed,” said Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs. “We will manage it with the central government, [to] limit the number of tourists visiting Komodo Island through ticketing,” he added. It appears the new proposal from the NTT Governor offers a solution to the conundrum of Komodo National Park.
Located within the Lesser Sunda Islands in East Nusa Tenggara, Komodo National Park is made up of three large islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar – along with 26 smaller ones. The park is the only place in the world to see Komodo dragons in the wild. Its protected status, first granted in 1980, was later expanded to include various marine areas and was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. This year, Lonely Planet named East Nusa Tenggara their Best-Value Destination for 2020.