Indonesia’s new tourism and creative economy minister, Sandiaga Uno, has announced his intentions to accelerate development in Bangka Belitung province’s Tanjung Kelayang Special Economic Zone (SES).
Lying just off Sumatra’s southeastern coast, the islands of Bangka and Belitung are fringed by around 470 smaller islands, of which 50 are inhabited. White sand beaches, azure waters, granite rock formations, tropical rainforest, rare wildlife and cultural diversity are some of the archipelago’s drawcards.
The setting of Andrea Hirata’s bestselling novel and hit movie adaptation Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), Belitung attracts travellers eager to visit the film’s locations. Indonesian media sometimes refers to it as ‘the Land of Laskar Pelangi’.
“Belitung has become a tourism icon which is extremely strategic,” the minister said during a recent visit. “Because of this, I continue to support the development of the Tanjung Kelayang SES as a whole, in order to improve its destinations and tourism and creative economy products.”
Announced as one of Indonesia’s 10 priority destinations — or the “Ten New Balis” — in 2017, the 325-hectare Tanjung Kelayang SES in Belitung’s north has a development concept of "Socially and Environmentally Responsible Development and Cultural Preservation".
However, being among the 10 priority destinations doesn’t cut it for Bangka Belitung’s governor, Erzaldi Rosman. “I ask the minister of tourism and creative economy Sandiaga Uno to establish Belitung Regency as the sixth super-priority tourist destination,” he said while accompanying Sandiaga on his visit, reported local weekly, Tempo.
Currently, the five destinations on the super-priority list are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, the world’s largest volcanic crater lake; Borobudur in Central Java, the world’s biggest Buddhist temple; Labuan Bajo in West Flores, the gateway to Komodo National Park; Mandalika in Central Lombok, a coastal resort area and special economic zone; and Likupang in North Sulawesi, a 200-hectare stretch of white sandy beaches.
According to Yvonne Wan, general manager of Sheraton Belitung Resort, the province’s “biggest allure” is that it is still a relatively undiscovered destination and an unspoilt haven for wildlife, with postcard-worthy scenery.
For it to crack the super-priority list, Wan believes domestic and international flight connections would need to increase, along with destination marketing efforts that highlight Belitung’s culture, food and people.
“Careful development of the island’s infrastructure, so as to preserve the uniqueness of Belitung’s nature reserve, is crucial,” Wan said.
Another purpose of the minister’s visit was to inspect the province’s readiness to host the Indonesia Triathlon Series on 23 March, as well as future sports tourism events. An ardent fitness enthusiast, Sandiaga tested the triathlon course by swimming 350 metres at the Sheraton Belitung Resort’s beach, then cycling 33 kilometres and running 3 kilometres.
"Belitung is one of the best places to be the venue for the triathlon series, because it is supported by clear beaches and quite challenging coastal currents, as well as smooth roads," he said.
On his return to Jakarta, the minister added that Belitung would also be an ideal “Work From Destination” and “Study From Destination”, just days after he announced that central government officials are considering plans for a new long-term visa that would enable foreign visitors to remain in Indonesia for up to five years.
Based on the concept of a long-term stay or a second home visa with a five-year validity, applicants would have to deposit 2 billion rupiah (US$142,958) to be eligible for the visa while families would have to deposit 2.5 billion rupiah, Sandiaga said in a statement on 9 February.