Entrance fees to two of Komodo National Park’s main islands rose 18-fold overnight to 3.75 million rupees ($252) on August 1, a jump that local workers say would scare tourists and see their income dry up.
Indonesia is home to around 3,300 rare Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet) long and can kill large prey with a single poisonous bite.
“It has created uncertainty among us,” said Leo Embo, a tour guide, who was from one of 24 local workers’ associations currently on strike over ticket prices.
“We have decided to strike even when we are suffering a loss here…it might as well be suicide.”
KompasTV aired footage of a clash between police and protesters on Tuesday. Local media reported that dozens of people had been arrested and Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno on Monday urged workers to hold talks with the government.
The pristine islands in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracted nearly 222,000 visitors in 2019, before the pandemic hit.
Annual figures dwindled to around a quarter of that figure in subsequent years, decimating tourism-dependent businesses.
Indonesia has previously courted controversy over its efforts to generate revenue from giant lizards, including an image of a dragon facing off against a construction vehicle, which sparked outrage when it went viral on social media in 2020.
Komodo Island is one of a growing number of destinations around the world that impose a “resort tax” as a safeguard against overtourism.