Adrian Wail Akhlas, Jakarta – The government is seeking to speed up the development of the super-priority tourist destination Lake Toba in North Sumatra as a part of its broader efforts to attract foreign and domestic tourists.
Speaking during a virtual coordination meeting, Coordinating Maritime and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan asked related ministries to gear up the development of four villages in Toba district, three villages in Humbang Hasundutan district and three villages in North Tapanuli district located close to the volcanic lake.
"We will start working in July and will split the work between the related ministries and government institutions as well as Batak [North Sumatran ethnic group] culture experts to make the project more integrated," the senior minister, who is also a successful businessman, said at the coordination meeting on Wednesday.
"It's already clear what should be done by each ministry and institution so that the coordination will be close, despite the physical distancing," he said.
The government has been working to develop five super-priority destinations as part of its efforts to make the tourism industry one of the new drivers of the country's economic growth. The destinations are Lake Toba, Borobudur in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Likupang in North Sulawesi.
The development in Lake Toba is to focus on the improvement of connectivity, water resource facilities, human resource development and traditional houses in an effort to make the area a popular destination. The initiative will involve the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry and the Public Works and Housing Ministry, among others.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio said accessibility, local culture and cleanliness should be priorities as Lake Toba seeks to become a top tourist destination.
"We hope the regents can focus on cleanliness and keep track of waste management," the minister said. "Our task is to look for the potential of youth creativity with strong culture."
The Public Works and Housing Ministry has started to develop infrastructure around Lake Toba, and the Communications and Information Ministry is preparing an internet network in the area.
The Transportation Ministry has started to build several docks in the area, which will be ready by next year, while also working to develop the Sibisa airport near Lake Toba.
Indonesia's tourism industry has been hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic as people around the world have isolated themselves at home and governments have closed their borders and issued travel warnings.
Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data shows that Indonesia had only 885,067 foreign tourist arrivals in February, a 28.85 percent decline from February of last year. From January to February, Indonesia recorded 2.16 million foreign tourist visits, an 11.8 percent drop from the 2.45 million tourists recorded over the same period last year.
The BPS has yet to release its March data on foreign arrivals.