Statement from STINAPA Bonaire Director's Office
To counter the rising costs of managing and maintaining the National Parks of Bonaire and to enable improvement of key services, at the request of STINAPA, the Executive Council of the Public Entity of Bonaire has decided to amend the tariffs for the nature fee, which is the individual admission fee for access to the Bonaire National Marine Park that individual visitors to our island pay.
The nature fee has not been raised since 2005, while meanwhile, the costs for maintenance of the parks have risen considerably over the last 13 years. The number of residents of Bonaire has gone up from 12,000 to 19,000 in 2018; cruise tourism has risen sharply, with an expected total of upwards of 450,000 cruise passengers visiting Bonaire this year.
The changes will affect the individual nature fee. The nature fee for non-divers has been fixed at USD 25.- per calendar year; and the nature fee for divers has been fixed at USD 45.- per calendar year.
These changes will formally take effect as of January 1st, 2019.
The decision of the Public Entity to raise our tariffs is based on willingness-to-pay research that indicates that tourists highly appreciate Bonaire's pristine nature and are generally willing to contribute even more than now requested. Also, in comparison to other MPA's of similar quality throughout our region, the new tariffs are competitive.
With this raise in tariffs, STINAPA will be enabled to considerably extend its key services, as rightfully called for by our community for a number of years.
Specifically, it enables STINAPA to focus much more attention on areas like Klein Bonaire, Lac/Sorobon and other Ramsar sites that have been suffering from the increased user pressure. It enables us to extend our patrols and surveillance efforts in the evenings and weekends. Much needed research to support and inform park management decisions can be extended. STINAPA can enlarge the number of education hours in schools, outdoor nature awareness activities and intensify other outreach efforts. The recreational facilities to support sustainable enjoyment of both the
marine and the terrestrial parks can be drastically improved.
The way the maintenance and management of the Bonaire National Marine Park and the Washington Slagbaai National Park is unique, and guarantees independent governance. Through the mechanism Bonaire has had in place for years now, it is the individual tourist that contributes to the upkeep of the parks, by paying admission. Neither the· citizens of Bonaire (unless they scuba dive) nor the local government, nor the national government contribute structurally to the considerable costs of managing the parks.
At USD 45.- per calendar year, the new costs of the scuba dive tag are less than 10% of the overall costs of many Open Water Courses offered on our island. STINAPA does not believe this to be a disproportionate percentage. The current tourist tax rate stands at USD 5.45 per person per night, which means that a 10-day stay on the island costs USD 54.50. Again, STINAPA does not believe that a scuba dive access pass of USD 45.- for a full calendar year, providing admission to one of the best maintained marine parks in our region, is out of balance in comparison to some of these costs.
Our funding mechanism avoids, as much as possible, that the Bona irian tax payer carries the costs of the upkeep of our parks. Instead, the individual tourist, and businesses that make commercial use of Bonaire's precious natural resources, ensure funding of the maintenance of the parks. We believe this system is fair, and worth defending.
During multiple stakeholder meetings that STINAPA has conducted over the past year with all categories of operators in the marine park, we have consistently indicated and delivered the arguments why, after 13 years, the fees need some adjustment. STINAPA has also indicated that a raised fee is not the final goal, as far as we are concerned. Ultimately, we agree with most operators that we need a modern mechanism where fees are collected "at the gate" as tourists enter our island, and that cruise tourists should not be exempt.
We call upon all operators to jointly with us advocate for modernizations.
Of course, implementation of the new fee structure requires some level of coordination with key operators in the marine park, chiefly amongst them the dive operators, represented by CURO.