JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) administration is reportedly planning to raise the Komodo National Park's entrance fee to at least US$500 (S$687) as part of efforts to boost the conservation area's "prestige".
East Nusa Tenggara governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat recently warned that tourists must pay a lot more to see Komodo dragons.
He added that the park had to maintain a certain degree of prestige as it was the only place in the world where people can see the endangered species in their natural habitat.
"(Komodo dragons) are highly unique, but sadly they come cheap; I will discuss the matter with the central government. We expect to issue a strict rule setting the park's minimum entrance fee for tourists to US$500," Mr Viktor said as quoted by kompas.com in Kupang, NTT, on Wednesday (Nov 21).
He further claimed that the additional income the NTT administration received from the park was not significant, because the world-famous tourist destination was managed by the central government.
The entrance fee currently paid by visitors on a weekday is 150,000 rupiah (S$14 or US$10), according to several tour agency websites including Flores XP Adventure.
Mr Viktor also expected to set a different rate - starting from US$50,000 - for recreational ships entering Komodo National Park.
"Only people with deep pockets are allowed to (see the komodo dragons). Those who don't have the money shouldn't visit the park since it specifically caters to extraordinary people," he said.
Previously, the government planned to limit the number of visitors to Komodo National Park in a bid to maintain the ecosystem's stability following a fire in August, which razed hectares of grasslands.
The park, an official Unesco World Heritage site, has welcomed a growing number of tourists both from Indonesia and overseas.
However, the influx has triggered a number of environmental problems, including fires, that have affected the park's landscape, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry's director general for natural resources and ecosystems, Mr Wiratno.
With additional input from The Straits Times