Tour operators win park fees battle
PHUKET: In a major victory for local tour operators, the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) has backed down on enforcement of the 200-baht entry fee for foreigners in tour groups visiting the Phang Nga Bay National Park. Individual foreigners going into the park will still be required to pay 200 baht a head, (100 baht for children) compared with 20 baht a head for Thais (10 baht for children). Yesterday representatives of the Phuket Eco-Tourism Association (PETA) met in Bangkok with Plodprasop Suraswadi, Director-General of the RFD, and Chet Poungjit, Chief of Phang Nga Bay National Park, to discuss an extension of the concessionary fees scheme that was launched last year and officially expired on October 1. According to PETA, Phang Nga Bay was the only national park in the entire country to impose the full fees on tour and dive groups from the beginning of this month, a decision that sparked a mass protest Saturday by PETA members. They argued that the livelihoods of thousands of local people were threatened by the 900% jump in fees, which would probably deter foreigners from visiting the park. Now, however, PETA Secretary Chartwut Boonyarak explained, “The concessionary scheme is extended for another year, which means that tour and dive operators will pay only 20 baht for every foreign tourist.” The scheme will expire on September 30 next year. The RFD did not say whether this extension applies to other national parks in Thailand.
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