Urgent debate over national park fees
BANGKOK: With the concessionary scheme on national park entry charges for tour and dive operators about to come to an end, operators around the country have urged the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) to reconsider the full fees, which they regard as being too high. On October 1 last year the RFD introduced new park entry fees for foreigners: 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. Thais continued to pay 20 baht and 10 baht respectively. However, a scheme was launched to allow tour and dive operators to buy, in advance, concessionary coupons which allowed them to take clients into the parks at much lower rates. That scheme expires at the end of this month. Chaiwat Dowruang of the Phuket Tourism Association, told the Gazette, “The scheme is about to expire, but the economic situation is not much better than a year ago. So we want the government to reconsider this issue. “The fee should not be the same for every park. In some parks, visitors can see everything in a couple of hours but in others they need to spend at least a night there.” Holger Schwab, in charge of public relations for the Dive Operators’ Clubs of Thailand, Phuket, said, “If something were being done with the park fees – if you could see improvements, if they kept the fishing boats out of marine parks, if they kept the beaches clean – then of course we would be willing to pay more.” A subcommittee set up by the Parliamentary Tourism Committee last month appears to have taken these points to heart. It has studied 15 inland parks and six marine parks from the 138 national parks in Thailand, dividing them into three groups – A, B and C – depending on services and facilities, popularity, security, variety of activities and special characteristics. The subcommittee recommended entry fees of 100 baht per person for Group A parks, 60 baht for Group B and 40 baht for Group C. It made no recommendations, however, on whether there should be separate pricing for Thais and foreigners. None of the Group A parks studied by the subcommittee is near Phuket, but Khao Sok falls into Group B, while Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi and Krabi’s Haad Nopparat Thara fall into Group C. The subcommittee also suggested a system of one-day, two-day and three-day passes, and recommended that tour and dive operators be able to get concessionary rates. The recommendations have been passed to the RFD for its consideration. A meeting will be held later this month to discuss the recommended rates; the question of whether there should be dual pricing; and the concessionary scheme. Chet Poungjit, chief of the Phang Nga Bay National Park told the Gazette earlier this month that if no instructions are received from the RFD by the end of this month, all adult foreigners will be charged 200 baht to enter any national park. Since the current concessionary scheme for tour and dive operators expires on September 30, he added, all tour clients will also have to pay the full 200 baht from October 1.
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