Concessionary park fees scheme extended

PHUKET: The Parliamentary Tourism Committee has decided to extend the concessionary scheme on national park entry charges for tour and dive operators. Deputy Minister Prapat Panyachatirak, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives said at a meeting of the committee that he will set up a sub-committee to study the problem of entry fees and that in the meantime the concessionary scheme will continue. He added that no date has been set for the scheme to expire, but that the sub-committee will be study recommendations on entry fees made by another sub-committee. However, K. Prapat’s message does not seem to have reached the Phang Nga Bay National Park Chief, Chet Poungjit. While the announcements were being made of sub-committees studying the work of other sub-committees, K. Chet ordered staff to start collecting the full 200-baht per visitor entry fee from tour and dive operators. Soonthorn Sakulsan, a member of the Phuket Eco-Tourism Association (PETA) said today, “With effect from today, dive and tour operators are being required to pay 200 baht per visitor. Some of the operators had to pay as much as 10,000 baht today for tourists to go into the park. “We checked every park throughout the country. Phang Nga Bay is the only one collecting the full fee.” The PETA has sent a letter of complaint to K. Prapat, in which it also pointed out that, following a Parliamentary Tourism Committee meeting on August 2, a spokesperson stressed that the concessionary scheme would be extended for two weeks, until October 15. Soonthorn added, “About 50 operators in Phuket and Phang Nga will be affected by the reintroduction of the full entry fee. We feel the government should be concerned about local people in the area. Between 400,000 and 500,000 tourists normally visit this park each year; [maybe] they won’t go there any more. If the fee stays at 200 baht it could mean the loss of as many as 1,000 jobs.” K. Chet was unapologetic. He told the Gazette, “The concessionary scheme ended on September 30. I have received no instructions from the Royal Forestry Department, so I have to charge 200 baht for every foreigner.”

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