Thai boat operators demand decrease in fees for tourists heading to Phi Phi Islands National Park

Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

Khlong Haeng Bay is the entrance to Noppharatthara Beach-Phi Phi Islands National Park.

However, the blockade left 1,000 tourists who had bought island-hopping package tours stranded at the pier.

The operators also rallied in front of the park office at around 9am, saying they wanted the park entrance fees to be cut from Bt400 to Bt200 for foreign adults and from Bt200 to Bt100 for children. There were 300 soldiers, policemen and park officials present at the rally.

The protesters claimed that the high fees were adversely affecting their business and that the number of foreign visitors had dropped.

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When National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department's marine park manager Natthapol Rattanapan told protesters that it was not possible to reduce the fees, they said they would continue their rally until their appeal was heard. Later, officials invited the group's representatives to discuss the issue and come up with a solution.

At 12.30pm, it was concluded |that the demand would be forwarded to the department for consideration and that it would take 20 days to receive an answer. |The protesters accepted the resolution and left.

Natthapol later told reporters that it was not possible to reduce fees, which were set by a ministerial regulation, adding that the number of foreign visitors was actually on the rise.

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He said the park had had 1.39 million visitors last year and that Bt559.7 million in entrance fees had been collected. This year, 568,195 visitors have arrived and Bt228 million has been collected in entrance fees, he said.

He added that boat operators' businesses may have been affected because there was more competition, as 248 new boats have been registered so far this year, adding to the 1,531 boats registered last year.

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