The proponent behind the proposed increase of Jellyfish and Rock Island Fees said that the current pricing imposed on Palau’s famous attractions are too low for such very valuable resources.
Koror State Legislator Kyonori Tellames, Koror State Legislature’s Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, told Island Times in an interview that the Jellyfish Lake is one of the most iconic places in the world yet it is only being sold at a low price.
Tellames even reiterated that they are also more concern of the image that Palau is putting out for the famous sites and the need to continue research by the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF), an organization monitoring the condition of the Jellyfish lake, which can only be supported through additional funding from the fees to be collected.
“We need to make sure that the research continues so we need to fund them to make sure that the CRRF continues their research at the Lake,” Tellames said, adding that this is necessary so that if there are any signs of problems detected at the lake, immediate action will be taken.
Tellames even cited that the proposed fee for the Jellyfish Lake is nothing compared to the fees imposed in Africa where $750 will be charged from tourists who want to see Gorillas for only one-hour period.
A report by the Independent that was published online revealed that Rwanda, a country in East Africa known as a home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, had announced in 2017 the increase in the price of Gorilla Permits from US$750 to US$1,500 for all visitors.
Tellames said that the current Jellyfish Lake permit fee where tourists are charged $100 for a 10-day tour at the Jellyfish Lake is like asking the tourists only to pay $10 a day if it is to be presumed that they are going to have the tour for 10 days.
Under the proposed law, it was recommended that permit fees for Rock Island Use should be raised to $100 from $50 with four-day validity while the permit fee for the Jellyfish Lake is proposed to be increased to $150 but valid only for one day.
When asked about the concern of some citizens that bringing up the permit fees might further contribute to downturn of tourists visiting the lake, Tellames said that the original intent of the bill and even the current state law is actually to control the number of visitors coming to the lake.
Tellames said that the 9th Koror State Legislature passed the law in 2011 with an intent to “better control the number of visitors and to increase the quality of visits.”
“That has not changed. That is still our intent,” Tellames added.
The Koror State Legislature conducted a public hearing for the proposed legislation on February 20 which was attended by tour operators and other members of the tourism industry. The proposition was met with mixed reactions from different groups during the public hearing with some expressing opposition against the planned fee increase while others supporting it.
“The next step now is to consolidate the comments which has been done. So now, the committee needs to meet and address all of them. If we find them relevant, we will insert them to the bill and then we will meet with the Bureau of Tourism and the Palau Visitors Authority,” Tellames said. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)