TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - President Joko Widodo is focusing on the development of tourism and creative economy in five super-priority integrated destinations across the archipelago, most of which are well-known for their beautiful landscapes and natural beauty.
Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Likupang in North Sulawesi, Borobudur in Central Java, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, and Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara — few people would be unfamiliar with these five destinations targeted by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and their immense cultural and historic value.
The five tourism destinations are famous for the uniqueness of their landscapes that attract domestic and international tourists alike.
Among these destinations, the ministry has selected North Sumatra’s Lake Toba as a new icon for Indonesian tourism based on its natural beauty.
Spread over 1,145 square kilometers and measuring 450 meters in depth, Lake Toba, which brings to mind the vastness of the ocean, is one of the largest lakes in the South East Asian region and one of the deepest in the world.
Here, visitors can soak in the scenery while kayaking, riding a canoe, or choosing one of the three lake expedition routes of Tongging-Silalahi, Tongging-Samosir, and North Circle.
Glamorous camping, or glamping, is another option for those seeking to enjoy the breezy weather of Lake Toba, located in the Kaldera Toba Nomadic Escape in the Ajibata sub-district of Toba Samosir district.
The selection of the Toba Lake area as one of the super-priority tourism destinations has come as no surprise for many, considering the beauty of the spot that stretches over seven districts, including Simalungun, Toba Samosir, North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasundutan, Dairi, Karo, and Samosir.
Its beauty even proved a draw for King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti of The Netherlands, Europe, who, during their visit, also took time to observe the culture of the Batak tribe.
For this reason, tourism facilities in Lake Toba have seen continued development, including work on the extension of the Tano Ponggol path from 25 meters to 80 meters, construction of the 450-meter Tano Ponggol Bridge connecting the Sumatra mainland with Samosir Island, as well as the refurbishment of the lakeside area. Work has also been done to open up access for larger leisure ships so they can go around the Lake Toba area.
The Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) has continued to carry out infrastructure works in the National Strategic Tourism Area of Lake Toba to develop it as a superior tourism destination.
The ministry has so far extended support for projects including the Samosir ring road, Tano Ponggol Bridge, the revitalization of Lake Toba, water management and sanitation facilities, and the refurbishment of the lakeside.
PUPR Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said that in 2020 his Ministry allocated a budget of Rp1.33 trillion for infrastructure development in Lake Toba.
Its stunning natural scenes have also prompted UNESCO to designate Lake Toba as the Toba Caldera.
Head of the marketing development division at the North Sumatra Cultural Tourism Office, Muchlis, said that Lake Toba has also been designated by UNESCO as the Toba Caldera UNESCO Global Geopark and that certainly requires attention in all aspects of its handling.
Infrastructure, which has been a hurdle to its becoming a world-class destination and a destination of choice within the region, has been addressed by both the central and provincial, district, and city governments, he noted.
Infrastructure alone is deemed to not be enough, he said adding, there should also be improvement in the quality of human resources in the sector.
"This could be done by building a tourism vocational school in each district as a source of future workforce as well as conducting training and certification for tourism actors and businesses," he suggested.
Muchlis said the roles of the government, private sector or investors, media, academics, and the community would also play a very important role in advancing tourism in the area to create a positive image for potential tourists.
In this pandemic era, technology is playing an important role, and it requires sufficient internet capability to develop and promote tourism and products made by micro, small, and medium enterprises that can often be the main attraction for tourists, he pointed out.
"This is, of course, a concern for the government and operators to be able to increase the speed of the internet in the region," he said. But behind it, the participation and awareness of the people in the region to actively participate in the tourism sector is also very important, he added.
"People need to understand that tourism will increase their income and that they also need to be good and welcoming hosts by implementing the values of Sapta Pesona in their lives," he remarked.
A lecturer at the Faculty of Economics of the State University of Medan, Armin Rahmansyah, echoed Muchlis’ statements on preparing human resources, saying that if Lake Toba is to emerge as a super priority tourist area, it must be supported by various aspects, including human resources and infrastructure.
The quality of services is one of the aspects that needs to be considered from the point of view of the readiness of human resources, he said.
Apart from that, the most important thing to pay attention to is the quality of infrastructure, he added.
He emphasized that developing Lake Toba as a super priority integrated destination area is the right decision. "But we have to pay attention to the two supporting variables," he stressed.