(CNN) — A visit to the world’s largest Buddhist temple is about to get expensive.
Under the new rules, foreigners must be accompanied by a local guide at all times when visiting Borobudur. There were also plans to introduce electric shuttle buses for tourists to travel around the temple and the neighboring area.
“We are doing this to create new jobs while fostering a sense of belonging in this region so that a sense of responsibility for the historic sites can continue to thrive in the younger generation of the future,” said Luhut.
“We’ll take this one [steps] solely for the sake of preserving the archipelago’s rich history and culture.”
Sunrise over the ancient Borobudur Temple in the Indonesian province of Central Java.
GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Located near the city of Yogyakarta in the Indonesian province of Central Java, the 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 attracted tens of thousands of visitors daily before the pandemic hit.
With nine stacked platforms surmounted by a large central dome surrounded by seated Buddha statues, the temple is a remarkable 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-approved guides and periodically increases the prices of tickets for non-Cambodians.
Stuart McDonald, co-founder of Travelfish, a travel website about Southeast Asia, emphasized that foreign travelers made up only a “small minority” of Borobudur’s visitors. “The importance of this price hike has come out of the blue and seems somewhat misguided,” McDonald said.
“The Borobudur is a major attraction in Indonesia and is often cited as a highlight of Java…so one should be careful not to exaggerate the importance of foreign tourists to Borobudur’s financial viability.
“The main question could be: [whether] foreign travelers will cut their time in Yogyakarta, or cut the city out of their travel plans entirely,” he continued. “I’d say yes cautiously. The ripple effect can be significant.”
A Buddhist monk takes a photo of the Buddha statue in Borobudur Temple during Vesak Day celebrations.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
But will the Borobudur see the same effect?
Locals who work in the area, such as Ade Wijasto, doubt it. “The increase in ticket prices will only stop people from visiting Borobudur,” Ade, a tour guide, told CNN, adding that many Borobudur guides had already lost huge amounts of revenue due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic.
“Many of us are still recovering,” he said. “We thought the reopening of Borobudur would be good news, but [the government] just made it worse.”