The government announced it would allocate Rp 210 trillion ($23.3 billion) toward economic development in eastern Indonesia.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who is also the coordinator of the master plan to accelerate development in the country’s Economic Corridor V (Bali and Nusa Tenggara), said on Sunday in Denpasar that the money would be spent on 136 projects in the area.
The tourism sector, which Mari singled out as a main driver for growth in eastern Indonesia, would receive 28 percent of the investment, she said, mainly through infrastructure projects.
“Investing heavily in infrastructure will allow us to rapidly develop tourism,” Mari said, adding that the government aimed to increase tourist arrivals to 8 million next year from 7.7 million this year.
To ensure it meets the target, the government is looking to attract visitors from countries that have emerged relatively unscathed from the credit crisis including China, India and Australia.
“Apart from Bali, another tourism magnet in the area is East Nusa Tenggara’s Komodo Island,” Mari said.
Komodo National Park’s win in the New7Wonders of Nature global poll could bring an end to widespread poverty in East Nusa Tenggara, said former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who campaigned for Komodo’s bid.
“Growth in tourism in East Nusa Tenggara will lead to increased economic opportunities,” Kalla said at a seminar at the Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta on Sunday. “Komodo is the key to improving the welfare of the people in the province.
“Uniting all Indonesians is easy as long as there is a clear cause, and what better cause than to create prosperity for an impoverished region.”
Abraham Paul Liyanto, the chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara branch of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), agreed that growth in the region’s tourism industry would expand on the back of infrastructure improvements there.
Abraham added that direct international flights to Labuan Bajo, the main city of Flores island and the closest town to Komodo, would mean tourists coming for a visit would not need to stop over in Jakarta, Bali or Surabaya.