Hundreds of Indonesian tourism workers have gone on strike over a hefty hike in ticket prices to see the country’s famous Komodo dragons.
The government insists it is to preserve the habitat of one of the world’s largest lizards.
Overnight, the fee to access two of the main islands of the Komodo National Park shot up 18 times, from 200,000 rupiah to 3.75 million rupiah on Monday, a jump that local workers said would scare off tourists and see their incomes dry up.
Indonesia is home to about 3,300 rare Komodo dragons, which can grow up to three metres in length and can kill large prey with a single venomous bite.
“This has caused uncertainty among us,” said Leo Embo, a tour guide who belonged to one of 24 local workers’ associations currently on strike over the ticket prices.
“We decided to go on strike, even when we’re suffering from a loss here … this might as well be suicide.”
Local media reported dozens had been arrested, and tourism minister, Sandiaga Uno, on Monday urged workers to hold talks with the government.
East Nusa Tenggara governor Viktor Laiskodat said the new price would be imposed, despite the protest.
“We admit that we missed disseminating the information [about the price increase] properly. We will inform the people better while monitoring and evaluating the situation,” he told reporters Monday.
The secretary-general of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association, Maluna Yusran, told local media the impact of the ticket price increase would be felt in the coming days.
According to the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies, thousands of domestic and international visitors cancelled their planned visit to the island after news of the price rise emerged.
“The public reaction to reject the plan also had an impact on visiting tourists,” Ignasius Suradin, the head of the association said.
The pristine islands in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and drew close to 222,000 visitors in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
Annual numbers have shrunk to about a quarter of that in the following years, decimating tourism-dependent businesses.