JAKARTA: Komodo Island, a popular tourist destination in Indonesia, will be closed to the public in 2020, Antara news agency reported, quoting the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Tourism Office on Thursday (Jul 18).
“We have decided to close Komodo Island to tourism next year,” said Wayan Darmawa, head of NTT Tourism Office.
The year-long shutdown is intended to improve the island’s ecological conditions and preserve its environment, and will cost an estimated 100 billion rupiah (US$7.1 million).
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Komodo Island is one of Indonesia’s 12 largest marine tourism centres and part of the Komodo National Park, comprising the three larger islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca, as well as 26 smaller ones.
During Komodo Island’s closure, tourists can still visit Rinca Island to catch a glimpse of the Komodo dragon.
Officials said Indonesian President Joko Widodo confirmed the decision after visiting the island from Jul 10 to Jul 11, according to the report.
Residents of Komodo Island have reportedly protested the plan to evacuate the island.
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The tourism industry is the backbone of NTT’s income, with the Komodo National Park and Labuan Bajo as its major tourist destinations.
Last year, the Komodo National Park recorded 32 billion rupiah (US$2.3 million) in revenue, with a total of 176,830 tourists visiting the park, according to Antara.
In 1977, Komodo National Park 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.
The area was designated as a national park in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, the world’s only surviving giant lizard.