(CNN) — Visiting the largest Buddhist temple in the world will soon be 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 neighboring areas.
“We’re doing this to create new jobs while strengthening a sense of belonging to this region so that a sense of ownership of the historic sites can continue to thrive in the younger generation of the future,” said Luhut.
“We’ll take these [steps] solely to preserve the rich history and culture of the archipelago.”
Sunrise over the ancient Borobudur Temple in the Indonesian province of Java.
GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Located near the city of Yogyakarta in the Indonesian province of Central Java, Borobudur is thought to have been built in the 9th century and survived through several restorations. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, it attracted tens of thousands of visitors daily before the pandemic.
With nine stacked platforms topped by a large central dome surrounded by seated Buddha statues, the temple is a notable 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 regularly increases ticket prices for non-Cambodians.
Stuart McDonald, co-founder of Travelfish, a travel website about Southeast Asia, stressed that foreign travelers make up a “tiny minority” of Borobudur’s visitors. “The significance of this price increase came out of the blue and seems a bit ill-conceived,” McDonald said.
“Borobudur is a major attraction in Indonesia and is often cited as the highlight of Java… so one should be careful about overestimating the importance of foreign tourists to Borobudur’s financial viability.
“The more important question might be [whether] foreign travelers will shorten their time in Yogyakarta or eliminate the city from their travel plans altogether,” he continued. “I would cautiously say yes. The ripple effect could be significant.”
A Buddhist monk takes a picture 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 who work nearby, like Ade Wijasto, doubt it. “Increasing ticket prices will only discourage people from visiting Borobudur,” Ade, a tour guide, told CNN, adding that many Borobudur guides due already lost enormous revenues due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic.
“A lot of us are still recovering,” he said. “We thought Borobudur reopening would be good news, but [the government] only made things worse.”