Jakarta (ANTARA) - After remaining closed for nearly six months owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the Komodo National Park (TNK) and Labuan Bajo have reopened to domestic tourists and expatriates living in Indonesia, albeit under several restrictions.

No more than 25 tourists are being allowed to visit each destination per day, with the observance of health protocols. Tourists are also being asked to furnish COVID-19 rapid test results showing that they are not infected with the virus.

In addition, the East Nusa Tenggara authorities are asking visitors to register online for entry tickets to Labuan Bajo through the website https://booking.labuanbajoflores.id/.

Tourists planning a trip to the Komodo National Park are being requested to use the services of certified local tour agents, who can be contacted through https://booking.labuanbajoflores.id/export/list-ta-to, according to Muhammad Iqbal, spokesperson for the Komodo National Park office.

Furthermore, the government has designated Komodo Island as a premium tourist destination, with visitors thronging the place to enjoy rare sightings of Komodo dragons in the wild.

The number of tourists visiting the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) habitat will be limited to 50 thousand annually, according to the authorities.

"Komodo Island has been prepared specifically as a conservation island, and we will limit entry to no more than 50 thousand visitors a year," East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat stated recently.

The NTT government has decided on the policy after the central government agreed to grant the province the status for co-management of the Komodo National Park in West Manggarai district along with the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry.

Laiskodat remarked that in future, a cap will be placed on the number of tourists visiting Komodo Island, and tourists entering the island would also need to be registered as members.

He said he believed the island of Komodo is different from other islands in the Komodo National Park area, so the natural settings should be preserved, with no construction of buildings allowed there. All hotel development will be in Tanamori, he said adding, only floating hotels, with 80-100 rooms, would be allowed to operate around the park.

Boats entering tourism spots would also be limited. Online registration is expected to help the local tourism office to record visitor numbers, and avoid boat crowding at each spot.

The Tourism Bureau of West Manggarai district, NTT province, has allowed the Labuan Bajo authorities and the Komodo National Park office to reopen the destinations in three phases. The first phase began on July 6, 2020, with the areas throwing their gates open to local tourists only.

In the second phase in August, the two tourists spots began allowing domestic visitors. And in the last phase, domestic as well as international tourists will be allowed entry into the areas, with the implementation of health protocols.

Although the NTT administration is no hurry to open the tourist destinations to foreign tourists, the province has begun receiving requests for tour packages from overseas.

"The average booking for tour packages from abroad is for the end of 2020," Abed Frans, chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) chapter of the Indonesia Travel Association (Asita), said in Kupang on August 4, 2020.

Frans, concurrently the owner of PT Flobamor Tours, said he has received reservations for nearly 10 tour packages from abroad.

Such traveler interest is quite encouraging as NTT's tourism sector has borne the major brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the Indonesian Government announced its first confirmed COVID-19 cases on March 2, 2020, the TNK and Labuan Bajo have remained closed and deserted.

"Others (travel agents), such as Panorama, have also received several bookings, and I am sure other colleagues have also begun receiving bookings," Frans stated.

It is estimated that bookings of incoming tour packages for all tour operators in NTT have reached dozens.

Most bookings are for the tour to Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai district, which is well-known for the Komodo National Park tourist destinations, while several others are for Timor Island.

NTT's travel agents have continued to digitally promote NTT tourism in the new normal period amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labuan Bajo and TNK have been designated as Indonesia's top priority tourist destinations, along with Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Mandalaika in West Nusa Tenggara, and Borobudur in Central Java, among others. They have even been dubbed as the "New Balis".

The Komodo National Park spans 137 thousand hectares, 60 percent of which constitutes water. The park boasts 147 islands, including the five major islands of Gili Motang Island, Padar Island, Nusa Kode Island, Komodo Island, and Rinca Island.

The TNK is home to 2,800 Komodo dragons (Veranus Komodoensis), the world's only giant lizards, with 1,040 Komodo dragons residing on Rica Island and the rest distributed across Komodo Island, Giling Motang Island, and other smaller islands.

In 1977, TNK was named a biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and in 1991, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2012, it was listed as the New 7 Wonders of Nature. (INE)

Related news: NTT places annual cap of 50,000 on Komodo Island visitors
Related news: Komodo National Park opens online registration for tourists


Editor: Suharto
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