▲ Seongsan Ilchulbong Photo courtesy Jeju World Natural Heritage Center
An expert working group has recommended charging 20,000 won for entry to Hallasan National Park as part of provincial plans to manage visitor numbers at the popular World Natural Heritage site.
At a press conference on Dec. 15, conservation experts and local council members also recommended charging 10,000 won for admission to Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak.
Currently, entry to Hallasan National Park is free and there is a 2,000 won charge for entry to Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak.
If the province accepts the recommendations, the proceeds from admission could go towards procuring national park land, maintaining facilities, and covering the costs of guided tours.
The working group analyzed 50 UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites worldwide and found that the average admission fee for such sites in 2011 was 24,000 won.
Notable location which charge admission fees include the Grand Canyon (US / 17,000 won), Yellowstone National Park (US / 33,000 won), Mount Huangshan (China / 38,000 won), and Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary (China / 57,000 won).
The province is also planning a compulsory reservation system and daily visitor limit at the two UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites from the second half of 2017 in order to limit visitors and preserve the ecosystem.
Director Ko Dae-hyeun of the Jeju Provincial Environmental Policy Division says the reservation system is essential to ensure visitors are able to feel “the real Jeju” as the UNESCO sites struggle under the weight of visitors amid a tourism boom.
“In the past, when there were fewer people, visitors took their time to enjoy Seongsan Ilchulbong and the trees and flowers. Because there are so many visitors now, it is becoming more difficult to see and feel the real Jeju,” Director Ko told The Weekly.
Ko said that restrictions were essential to promote a more sustainable model of Jeju tourism as the environment comes under increasing pressure from 15 million annual tourists.
“Currently, 1 million people visit Hallasan every year and 3 million go to Seongsan Ilchulbong. People come to Jeju because they want to escape their busy lives and enjoy nature, but the situation now does not allow that,” he said.
The director says the reservation system could be extended to other non-UNESCO sites such as gotjawal woodlands and oreum volcanic cones in the event that areas are designated under an enlarged national park.
“We are currently working with World Natural Heritage on this issue. Seongsan Ilchulbong and Hallasan have a lot of visitors, and if we decide, say, that 1,000 people are allowed per day, then we could say that 800 must reserve online and 200 on site,” he said.
Ko added that the although the current number of visitors was too high, the province had not yet decided on a daily visitor limit.
“We are discussing somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000, although nothing has been decided. We will be exploring all options. Once it is decided, we will be working with local tour agencies and the media to ensure that all foreigners coming to Jeju are aware of the system,” he said.
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