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Big events put Sumatra back on the tourism map

Luc Citrinot, eTN  May 03, 2011

JAKARTA/PALEMBANG (eTN) - Despite its proximity to India, as well as neighboring the western part of Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore), Sumatra failed until now to fully capitalize on its geographical location. Indonesia's second largest island attracted 1.72 million travelers (only direct arrivals at main ports of entry are recorded), a market share of less than 25% of total arrivals. By comparison, Bali alone represents 36.5% of all arrivals while Java attracted 31.5% of all travelers to Indonesia.

Until recently, little promotion was done on international markets to promote Sumatra - except for Batam and Bintan, two islands across Singapore - while limited international flights were on offer. But this is changing. There are now many flights linking Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and also Bangkok to Sumatra. And many events also now take place to promote Sumatra island.

There is a Visit Year Bandah Aceh 2011 in the northern province of Aceh. Long considered as a sanctuary for radical Islam, Aceh recently embraced tourism business. The tsunami catastrophe in 2004, which killed over 100,000 people in the province and caused devastation in many cities and villages changed indeed tourism perception. It is now perceived as a way to help lift people out of poverty. Along with the event, an investment fair will be hosted from July 1 to 5 to promote tourism, as well as agriculture and other potential investments.

But the biggest event in Sumatra in 2011 will be the South East Asian Games (SEA Games), which will be hosted in Palembang in South Sumatra. The event is of crucial importance for Indonesia as it took over the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last January. The SEA Games will welcome 6,000 athletes from the ten ASEAN nations, as well as Timor Leste. The event will be held during 11 days from November 11, 2011 to November 22, 2011.

As the main host, Palembang has seen the development of new venues including the Jakabaring Sports Complex around the existing stadium, which covers an area of 45,000 square meters and also at the Gelora Sriwijaya Palembang Sports Center. All the venues and infrastructures necessary to the games will be completed over the summer and will be ready to welcome athletes on time, promised South Sumatra Governor H. Alex Nurdin. ‚ÄúSouth Sumatra will use the SEA Games as a starting point for promoting the province to the world,‚ÄĚ the Governor said recently in a local press conference.

Infrastructures for the SEA Games comprise also a full-scale athletes-village ‚Äďthe first of its kind in Indonesia-, the expansion of the airport by 12% to reach an ultimate capacity of three million passengers as well as the completion of a new 147-room 4-star hotel integrating a convention centre.

Another spectacular event to take place is Musi Triboatlon, which will see international teams competing in an endurance race on three different kinds of boats - River Boat, Kaya, and Traditional Boat Racing or TBR. The race is due to take place prior to the SEA Games and is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and will stretch on 500 kilometers from upstream to downstream along the Musi River, which runs through South Sumatra province. This international contest is being held for the first time. Musi Triboatlon will be followed by 15 teams from 12 countries coming from the ASEAN and also from Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Nepal. Each team must be able to master each type of boat.

"As it is a first for us, we imposed a quota limit of 15 teams, as we also have to provide guarantees for the safety of foreign participants," said Effendi Soen, working at the executive committee event in Jakarta. According to Sapta Nirwandar, Director General of Marketing SEA Games and Musi Triboatlon, the events are expected to generate renewed interest from international travelers for South Sumatra.

Other good news is also the hosting of Indonesia’s largest B2B travel show, TIME PASAR WISATA in Bandar Lampung in Southern Sumatra. The event attracts between 120 and 150 buyers from all around the world and 250 Indonesian exhibitors. Pasar Wisata will take place at the Novotel Bandar Lampung from October 13-16, 2011. Opened 2 years ago, Novotel Lampung is located in the heart of the regional capital, offering 223 rooms.

Big events put Sumatra back on the tourism map
Typical Malay house from Sumatra

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