The global centre of marine biodiversity, known as the Coral Triangle, is dominated by Indonesia and the Philippines. The world’s two largest archipelagic nations regularly top best diving lists, so it isn't surprising that marine tourism is expected to play a significant role in the recovery of their respective travel industries.
After year-on-year growth from 2005 to 2019 Indonesia’s diving industry flatlined in 2020, but received a boost from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s Coral Reef Garden project late last year. Employing around 10,000 tourist sector workers to create 95,000 artificial coral structures, the US$7.5 million project aimed to support furloughed industry members and create future tourism jobs while improving marine ecosystem management, The Jakarta Post reported.
As Indonesia continues to focus on domestic tourism, Indonesian celebrity vocalist and environmental activist Kaka Slank is scheduled to travel to the tourism area of Torosiaje in Pohuwato Regency, North Sulawesi, in late January to dive at the lesser known site Pulau Kerang (Coral Island). According to Pohuwato regent Syarif Mbuinga, who is also a diver, Coral Island deserves a place among Indonesia’s world renowned dive sites, Prosesnews.id reported.
"If we’re talking about Raja Ampat, Bunaken, Wakatobi, and Komodo, [Coral Island] is no less competitive. This hidden treasure is incredibly beautiful. Please help me to promote its tourism potential, and let us protect and take good care of this part of the tourism sector,” Mbuinga said.
During the tourism ministry’s “Indonesia Dive Tourism Market Updates 2020” webinar, PADI territory director Paul Tosh Tanner commented that “we are very lucky to be in Indonesia, where all of our beautiful spots to go diving haven’t reached their full potential, and there are thousands more out there.”
Tanner added that “with the help of the ministry of tourism, dive centres, and trade agencies [...] we want to make sure that diving in Indonesia is at the forefront of everybody’s mind once the world opens up and tourism comes back.”
"To reactivate diving tourism during the pandemic, we have established health protocol guidelines (CHSE) for diving. We hope by having these guidelines and good implementation of them, travellers will come back to dive in our wonderful country of Indonesia," Rizki Handayani, deputy minister for tourism product and events, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, told Travel Weekly Asia. Indonesia was also named the best diving destination in Travel Weekly Asia Readers’ Choice Awards 2020.
According to Maree Coulson, manager of Lazy Turtle Dive Alor, a dive centre on the small Indonesian island of Alor in East Nusa Tenggara, investing in dive tourism is a great way to attract high-spending, longer-staying travellers to more remote regions of the archipelago.
While Indonesia is estimated to have over 1,000 dive sites, the Philippines is home to over 300, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tubbataha Reef Natural Park. During the recent Dive Philippines webinar series, the nation’s tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that diving and marine sports are considered one of the Philippines’ top tourism products and attractions.
“Most of the flourishing tourism activities available in the country today are water-based—from adventure to ecotourism activities such as snorkelling, diving and surfing,” she said.
“The department sees dive tourism as one of the key areas for positive industry growth, including increased visitor count, extended length of stay and higher tourism revenues.”
Additional reporting from Xinyi Liang-Pholsena