Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry announced five “super priority”
destinations in January this year, following on from its 2019 plan to
create “ten new Balis”.
The super priority destinations 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.
While the first three are relatively well-known to travel agents and
domestic travellers, the last two are comparatively less so. As
Indonesia’s tourism industry takes its first steps on the road to
recovery, and its vast domestic market enters the spotlight, how is
development playing out in the five destinations?
After reopening for domestic arrivals in June, the Lake Toba Tourism
Authority Agency has channelled resources into the many outdoor
activities the cooler mountainous region has to offer, such as cycling,
climbing, kayaking and camping. Lake Toba has enormous potential for
adventure tourism, according to the Agency’s director Arie Prasetyo.
These efforts have paid off as hotel occupancy rates approached 80%
in August, reported Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association’s North
Sumatra chapter chair Deni S Wardhana. “On weekends and religious
holidays it is difficult to find a room,” he told local daily newspaper
Among the five super priority destinations Borobudur is best known
internationally, as the 9th-century Buddhist temple was listed as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. To standardise infrastructure
development and environmental strategies, the central government and
regional agencies are formulating a master plan connecting Borobudur
with the Special Region of Yogyakarta, a city rich in Javanese culture,
and Prambanan, a 9th-century Hindu temple complex.
Infrastructure development in Labuan Bajo, however, is not going as
smoothly. A ‘Jurassic Park-style’ tourist centre proposed for
neighbouring Rinca island – which along with Komodo island is home to
the world’s largest lizard – has been rejected by a group of local
tourism members and conservationists on environmental grounds.
"Development such as this taints the [central government’s] grand
design of tourism development and is detrimental to us as tourism
stakeholders and [local] people,” the group’s head, Venan Haryanto,
recently told Indonesian current affairs magazine Tempo.
Similarly in Mandalika, Lombok, the first development phase of a
Grand Prix motorway has sparked a dispute with local residents claiming
In Likupang, the primary focus is a new four-lane road connecting it
with Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, which is expected to be
completed by 2021. “Without the support of community leaders, academics,
business stakeholders, the media, all levels of local government, and
especially the people around the project location, it could not have
moved as fast as it has,” said provincial governor Olly Dondokambey.
President Joko Widodo recently revealed that around 14.4 trillion
rupiah (US$979 million) of the 2021 state budget will be allocated to
the priority destinations as part of Indonesia’s economic recovery.
However, Irfan Setiaputra, president director of national carrier
Garuda Indonesia, has recommended that the government focus on just two
tourism destinations, with Bali being one of them. “If our attention is
spread out to 10 destinations, we will not receive many tourists [due to
the lack of focus],” he said during a recent webinar held by the
Indonesia National Air Carriers Association.
He also emphasised that health protocols should not be sidelined in
order to expedite tourism recovery. Tourism minister Wishnutama
Kusubandio has previously stated that regaining traveller trust is key
to the industry’s recovery.