Park fee hikes deferred

PHUKET: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will postpone its scheduled doubling of entry fees at all national parks, scheduled to take effect from September 15, by more than a year, Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) Deputy Chairman Sarayuth Mallam told the Gazette today.

Speaking by telephone from Bangkok, K. Sarayuth explained that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat has agreed to postpone the fee hike, from 200 baht to 400 baht for foreigners, but added that it will now come into effect November 30 next year.

Earlier this month, some 500 tour operators rallied at the Tourism Authority of Thailand Office in Phuket to demand that the fee hike be scrapped altogether, or that at least their concerns be taken into account before any price increases went into effect.

Citing the effects of similar entry fee hikes imposed in the past, the tour operators said that doubling entry fees would damage their livelihoods by causing a decline in the number of tourists visiting the parks, especially foreigners.

Entry fees for Thais were also set to double from September 15, from 20 baht to 40 baht. The two-tier pricing system, under which visitors to Thailand pay ten times the fee for Thais, has itself long been an embarrassment for tour operators and others in the hospitality industry.

K. Sarayuth said he saw the postponement of the fee hikes as only a partial victory, as tour operators consider that even small increases are threatening to tourism.

Thanapong Apaiso, Chief of the Sirinath Marine National Park in Thalang, confirmed that the entry fee hikes would be postponed until November 30, 2007.

He had been made aware of the postponement by ministry officials in Bangkok, but had yet to receive official confirmation, he added.

Phuket News
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