(CNN) — Visiting the largest Buddhist temple in the world is about to get expensive.
Under the new rules, foreigners will need to be accompanied by a local guide at all times when visiting Borobudur. There were also plans to introduce electric shuttles for tourists to move around the temple and nearby surroundings.
“We are doing this to create new jobs while developing a sense of place in this region so that the sense of responsibility for historic sites can continue to thrive in the younger generation of the future,” Luhut said.
“We take these [steps] solely for the purpose of preserving the rich history and culture of the archipelago.”
Sunrise over the ancient temple of Borobudur in the Central Java province of Indonesia.
GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Located near the city of Yogyakarta in the Central Java Province of Indonesia, Borobudur is believed to have been built in the 9th century and has been preserved through several restorations. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and was attracting tens of thousands of visitors daily before the pandemic hit.
With nine stacked platforms topped by a large central dome surrounded by seated Buddha statues, the temple is an outstanding example of Javanese Buddhist architecture.
Borobudur is often compared to another sprawling religious site, Angkor Wat. The Cambodian temple complex has a different style and history, but also requires all foreigners to be accompanied by government-licensed guides and periodically raises ticket prices for non-Cambodians.
Stuart McDonald, co-founder of Travelfish, a Southeast Asian travel website, pointed out that foreign travelers make up a “tiny minority” of visitors to Borobudur. “The magnitude of this price hike has come out of nowhere and seems somewhat inconsiderate,” McDonald said.
“Borobudur is a key attraction in Indonesia and frequently cited as one of Java’s highlights…so beware of overestimating the importance of foreign tourists to Borobudur’s financial viability.
“The most important question might be [whether] foreign travelers will reduce their time in Yogyakarta, or remove the city entirely from their travel plans,” he continued. “I would cautiously say yes. The ripple effect could be significant. »
A Buddhist monk takes a photo of the Buddha statue at Borobudur Temple during Vesak Day celebrations.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
But will Borobudur see the same effect?
Locals working nearby, like Ade Wijasto, doubt it. “Rising ticket prices will only deter people from visiting Borobudur,” Ade, a tour guide, told CNN, adding that many Borobudur guides have already lost huge incomes due to lack of tourists. during the pandemic.
“A lot of us are still recovering,” he said. “We thought the reopening of Borobudur would be good news, but [the government] only made things worse.”