Indonesia: New “Balis” to emerge in Morotai, Labuan Bajo or Tanjung Lesung

Morotai in Maluku, Labuan Bajo in West Nusa Tenggara, Tanjung Lesung in Banten, Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru in East Java, the Thousand Islands in Jakarta, Borobudur in Central Java and Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara. Most of those names sound unfamiliar for foreign travellers. However, they are identified by the Ministry of Tourism and the Indonesian government as the 10 emerging destinations. With the idea that they might one day be as famous as Bali.

Some already are well-known by travellers. Borobudur in Central Java or Lake Toba in North Sumatra have been on the tourist map for many years. Some others such as Wakatobi or Labuan Bajo are emerging as nature paradises.

Raising awareness for the ten destinations is a long-term task. It will request a lot of support from the government, not only in terms of promotion but above all in terms of investments: accessibility, international standard facilities in services such as drinkable water supply, hotels, restaurants, DMC will be crucial to inscribe the 10 emerging destinations in tour-operators itineraries.

Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya stated that the government would launch a limited participation mutual fund (RDPT) by 2017, through which it sought to garner Rp 10 trillion (US$ 770 million) to develop all 10 destinations. “We will use the funds to build amenities. They will be channelled first to the four special economic zones [and tourism destinations], such as Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Mandalika and Morotai,” he said then to local media.

But it will request more than that. Infrastructure investments might cost hundreds of millions of US dollars to create proper highways, airports or seaports. Indonesia currently ranks in the bottom half of countries on several infrastructure-related tourism competitiveness indicators, such as ground and port infrastructure, tourist service infrastructure, health and hygiene, information and communications technology (ICT) readiness and environmental sustainability according to a report from the World Bank.

Priority is for now given to three destinations for a start: Lake Toba, Mandalika and Borobodur. The three are due to get funds of Rp 1.6 trillion coordinated by Indonesia Public Works and Public Housing Ministry.

According to the Jakarta Post, data from the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry reveals that the development plan for Lake Toba includes the construction of toll roads connecting Medan-Kualanamu-Tebing Tinggi and Tebing Tinggi-Siantar-Parapat, access road to the Sibisa airport in Parapat and 14.3 kilometers of piping in Simalungun, among others.

In Borobudur, infrastructure improvement includes a toll road connecting Yogyakarta and Bawen, a regional drinking water system, and reconstruction and expansion of several roads. The Greenfield airport in Yogyakarta to replace the overcrowded Adisujipto International Airport in Kulon Progo while nearby Semarang Airport is also modernized. This represents another investment of at least US$400 million. Semarang new terminal will open in 2018 while Kulon Progo Airport first phase could be completed in 2019.

Meanwhile, Mandalika will see several works carried out, such as the Sulin bridge improvement, road expansion and maintenance, and irrigation network construction in central Lombok.

The government is now seeking to obtain a US$200 million to $500 million loan from the World Bank to fund the infrastructure development in the three destinations.