WMOTION.CO.ID – The chaotic increase in tourist tariffs to Komodo Island and Padar Island in West Manggarai, NTT is getting murky. Today (1/8/2022) the tourism businesses in Labuan Bajo held a strike as a form of protest. The provincial government of NTT deployed the police and Mobile Brigade (Brimob) to maintain security, even though a number of the perpetrators of the strike were persecuted and detained. How should a world heritage site such as Komodo Island be managed? Here’s a description of Sukma Winaryadoctoral student at the University of Angers:
Some time ago, President Joko Widodo expressed his support for the plan to increase tariffs in Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara, which will take effect on 1 August.
The addition in question is the imposition of an additional tariff of IDR 3.75 million for travelers who want to visit Padar Island and Komodo Island. In the current policy, tourists only need to pay IDR 150,000.
Jokowi considers this an effort to balance the aspects of conservation and sustainable tourism in Komodo National Park. He also briefly touched on the importance of calculating returns from a series of infrastructure projects that have been issued by the government in the strategic national tourism area.
Photos and Videos of Protesters in Labuan Bajo Circulating Injured, Allegedly During Clashes with Officers
This reason is similar to the excuse expressed by a government official in the discourse of increasing the entrance fee to the Borobudur Temple complex in Central Java. Because it caused a polemic, this discourse was later cancelled.
Reflecting on these two incidents, the government seems to be of the view that the tariff aspect holds the main key in realizing the target of sustainable tourism in world heritage sites. In fact, tourism development that relies too much on tariffs has the potential to reduce access to public visits, both local and foreign.
The government can learn from the French government, which also manages world heritage sites, but doesn’t even charge visitors a penny.
Paid option or not?
The United Nations agency for education and culture, UNESCO, stated that for the sake of sustainable development the conservation of cultural and natural heritage along with extraordinary universal values can be carried out by appropriate tourism management.
Governor of NTT: Local Regulation on Tariffs for Komodo Island to be Stipulated
Management of cultural heritage sites based on the concept of sustainable development is an effort to harmonize the economic, socio-cultural interests of the community, as well as the preservation of the site and its environment.
Related to this, the commercialization and conservation of world heritage sites are two things that cannot be separated. Based on a 2014 UNESCO report, world heritage sites have threats that must be managed carefully. These threats include overcrowding of visitors and irresponsible behavior of visitors.
On the other hand, the sustainability of a heritage site is also very much determined by the appreciation of visitors and local communities for historical, cultural, scientific and economic values. This appreciation is manifested in the form of visits and the formation of tourism as an industry.
Tourist visits to the site and the surrounding area contribute greatly to aspects of local development which include economic community involvement, triggering regional infrastructure development to financing site conservation.
The question is, is it possible to find a balance between commercialization and capacity?
Management of the world heritage site Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France, can be an example.
The site, which was built in 708, lies on 98 hectares of rock. Each year, this site is visited by about 2.8 million visitors.
To enter this site, visitors are not required to pay. This tourism area is even open 24 hours. However, to enter a special place, such as a church, visitors are charged an entrance fee of 11 euros (equivalent to Rp. 167,000).
From this we see that the imposition of tariffs is not always the option chosen to ensure the sustainability aspects of a heritage site. Ensuring the attractiveness of the surrounding area such as restaurants, campsites, resorts, facilities, and accessibility seems to be the choice taken to gain economic contribution from visitors.
However, there are many paid sites in France, such as the Palace of Versailles. The fare varies from 18 euros (equivalent to Rp. 273,000), to 108 euros (equivalent to Rp. 1,639,000).
The variation depends on the choice of visit packages available. There are 13 packages that visitors can choose based on their budget. For example, packages without having to queue, the availability of audio-visuals in various languages, accompanied by professional official guides, canal tickets for surrounding sites to luxurious royal-style meals.
The variety of this package makes the charm of the Palace of Versailles still able to be enjoyed by visitors from various circles around the world. Each year this site has about 10 million visitors.
Meanwhile, to ensure site management based on the concept of sustainable development, measurable actions are routinely carried out by managers by publishing work results and strategies to achieve them. This publication is certainly a reflection of the seriousness of the management towards the value of sustainable development which is integrated in their operational strategy.
These two examples prove that sustainable tourism management does not always require high rates. Instead of charging exorbitant prices, free access and differentiation of visiting packages coupled with increased attractiveness around the site are their choices in managing these sites.
On the other hand, setting prices that are too high without being matched by standardization of service quality can have a bad impact on the visitor experience. Comparison of the price with the value of additional services such as attractiveness, facilities, and accessibility difficulties have the potential to give rise to bad reviews of a cultural heritage site.
Recommendations for sustainable management models
For long-term design, tourism management cannot only be based on economic interests. Other aspects such as tourist experience, site-environment conservation, inclusiveness, and public accessibility must be a unified whole to be understood together. For this reason, the author makes several recommendations, namely:
1) redefining the position of Indonesian heritage sites in the midst of formal educational institutions. This is important to foster a sense of belonging, appreciation, and pride in the nation’s heritage.
2) management innovation is needed to provide tourist visit options. This creativity can take the form of development, expansion of attractions and the area around the site, and preparation of an itinerary for visitors. The goal is to divide groups of visitors according to their visiting interests. Whether for simply visiting and recreation, learning stories and history or for immersion that requires a direct visit to or above the site;
3) tariff adjustments may be necessary but with consideration of the feasibility of purchasing power and comparison with similar sites in the world, by avoiding setting tariffs that are too high but doing price differentiation according to the package.
4) space and time redistribution strategy through online ticket sales. Online sales will produce reports that are fast and precise so that managers can manage the flow of tourist movements in the area of the site.
5) encourage the formation of a unit within the management structure that has the duties and functions to formulate strategies and reporting on site management based on the concept of sustainable development.
6) Especially for Komodo National Park, the government and management must seriously find a fair economic solution for the community, especially on Padar Island and Komodo Island, which have been involved in service delivery.
This article previously appeared on The Conversation.
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