Sophistication Comes Slowly, Far to Slowly to Medan

On one side, Medan is coming of age with more sophisticated tourism products such as international hotel chains and brand new shopping malls. But on the other side, very little has been done to offer visitors a great experience as little is being done to enhance the city’s tourism attractions…

Sumatra’s largest city with a population of 2.3 million inhabitants, Medan is slowly coming of age. A brand new airport linked by Indonesia first airport express train, international chains such as JW Marriott, Aston, Grand Mercure or Swiss-Belmont and an upper class shopping mall “Centre Point Medan” have in recent years changed the physical appearance of Medan City Centre and turn it into a more attractive city for visitors. More projects are currently in development such as the mega development of Podomoro City Deli Medan.

The project is Medan first fully integrated development on a superficy of 5.2 hectares, consisting of condominiums,  Office Towers, a luxurious shopping mall and a hotel. The location will be in the immediate vicinity of JW Marriott on the outskirt of Medan historical town.

According to sales agents of Podomoro City Deli Medan, the first units are due to be open by early 2018 with most of the project being completed at the end of 2018. The future mall will bring the concept of Central Park Mall Jakarta, a shopping facility set in a public park.

There is also plans from the government to speed up the current construction of a toll way linking Medan to North Sumatra most famous tourist area, Lake Toba. A four-hour ride from Medan on heavily congested roads, the future tollway would cut the trip to two hours or two hours and a half once totally completed. So far, according to Indonesia Office of National Roads in Medan, the Medan- Kuala Namu-Tebong Tinggi tollway is due to be completed this year and open before the end of the year.

They are definitely changes  around Medan. However little if nothing has been done to improve the visitor’s experience in town. The historical town – which stretches from the rail station to the Great Mosque and the Maimoon Sultan Palace up to the JW Marriott Hotel- is in a dilapidated state. Most of the old historical buildings are on the verge of collapse, streets are dirty and broken by deep ruts, public lighting is non existing in many parts of the town, proper pavement to walk is not available while tourists will desperately look for signage providing tourism information or just indicating directions to major Medan monuments.

It looks as if the city- which was at one time considered as one of the wealthiest in Indonesia thanks to the presence of large companies involved in tobacco and rubber business-, completely gave up on improving and beautifying its environment.

The city welcomed in 2015 almost 220,000 foreign visitors while Lake Toba, considered now by the Indonesian government as a priority destination for tourism, welcomed less than 11,000 international visitors. The Government is now looking to attract one million travellers to Lake Toba until 2020 and Medan is due to play a pivotal role as a major gateway. It is time then for North Sumatra and the city of Medan to feel committed over the way to properly welcome tourists if the metropolis wants to become an attractive destination…

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