Photo: Sterling Zumbrunn
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Conserving Raja Ampat
Background information on the tag system for tour operators  

The following information is provided in order to acquaint dive operators with the detailed justification and workings of the Raja Ampat Tourism Entrance Fee System. We have tried to design this system in a manner which is as flexible and convenient to dive operators working in Raja Ampat as possible; however, the very different operating environments of liveaboards and locally-based resorts means there are some complexities here which require some explanation as well as patience and consideration on behalf of everyone involved.



Why was the user fee created?
As most operators are aware, ownership and authority over reefs in Raja Ampat (and Papua in general) is more complex than in other parts of Indonesia. In Raja Ampat individual families or villages actually exert traditional marine tenurial rights over the reefs (ie, reefs are not an open-access resource as in most of Indonesia). At the same time, the Raja Ampat Regency government also has management authority over the reefs. Both of these important stakeholders have a variety of legal and moral rights to seek payment from users of the reefs – be those fisheries or tourism interests. Unfortunately, these overlapping authorities have resulted in a fair bit of angst and multiple demands for payments from dive operators – something which many of you most certainly have experienced in Raja Ampat.

Given this situation, Conservation International (CI), the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), and their conservation partners were requested by both villagers and the Raja Ampat government to facilitate the development of an entrance fee system which can accommodate the rights of the government and villagers to seek compensation for tourism use of the reefs while also not unnecessarily inconveniencing dive operators or diving guests to the region. Our interest in facilitating this system is straightforward; our institutions are focused on conservation and sustainable use of the globally-significant marine biodiversity in Raja Ampat, and we firmly believe that marine tourism is one of the economic development sectors most compatible with this mission. Hence, we are keen to facilitate sustainable tourism development in Raja Ampat and encourage both villagers and the government to prioritize this sector. We have spent a considerable amount of energy, time and money to engage villagers and the Raja Ampat government in forging an agreement for a single fee system which is collected centrally with the benefits distributed to all of the villages in Raja Ampat – rather than having a potentially overwhelming number of separate fees for each reef in Raja Ampat. The result is that the single overall fee is significant (Rp 500,000), but we believe this is a small price to pay to encourage the stewardship and protection of the most biodiverse reefs on earth. We ask your support and patience in getting this fee system up and running and providing benefits to all of the involved stakeholders.

How does the tag system work?
After considering a variety of options, we have settled on the annual waterproof plastic entrance tag system (first developed in Bonaire and now widely used from Bunaken to Fiji to the Caribbean) as the most robust and convenient marine entrance fee system. The system is simple: guests purchase an individually-numbered annual waterproof tag which is affixed to their gear as proof of payment. The design and color of the tag changes on a yearly basis, and tags are valid for the calendar year in which they are purchased (eg, a 2008 tag will be valid from 1 January 2008 through 31 January 2009).

Tags are individually numbered and this information recorded directly on receipts and in a centralized database in order to prevent re-use of tags between guests. That is to say, tag #00001 is registered to Mr. John Smith from the UK, and cannot be transferred to other guests. This annual tag system is widely considered to be the most convenient marine entrance fee system yet developed and avoids a number of the hassles associated with systems that use daily fees. Tags can be purchased “on the spot” or pre-purchased in bulk by dive operators and re-sold to guests; the main “hassle” associated with this system is the requirement for operators to provide data back to the entrance fee management team on how the individually-numbered tags are assigned to specific guests (explained in detail below).

Why are there two receipts?
The purchase of a tag will result in two separate receipts which reflects the bipartite nature of the entrance fee: one receipt of Rp 150,000 for the tourism management fee (known locally as the “retribusi” to the Raja Ampat tourism department) and one receipt of Rp 350,000 for the conservation and community development fee (known locally as the “non-retribusi” fee which is used directly for programs in the 125 villages of Raja Ampat). Each receipt is in triplicate – one (white) for the visitor, one (pink) for the management team to enter visitor data into its database, and one (yellow) for the dive operator (provides an extra measure of “control” for dive operators to be able to compare back to the management team’s database in case of any suspicion of corruption). For more information purchase of tags and use of receipts click here.

Thank you for visiting Raja Ampat!

Tim Pengelola, JE Meridien Hotel Sorong
Fax +62 951 326576 (general inquiries) | Tel +62 951 316 0204 (tag purchase) | Tel +62 951 328 358 

Photo: Sterling Zumbrunn
Photo: Sterling Zumbrunn