East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province is blessed with at least eight natural wonders, which are expected to boost local economic development and tourism.
Among the natural wonders of the province are: Semana Santa in Larantuka; Nihiwatu Beach in Sumba Island; Alor Dive in Alor Island; Nemberalla Beach in Rote Ndao; Komodo Island; Pink Beach in Padar Island; Taman 17 in Riung Island; and the three-coloured lakes of Mount Kelimutu.
"East Nusa Tenggara has immense potential in cultural tourism, because the province is as rich in culture as any other region in Indonesia," Governor Frans Lebu Raya said.
The governor urged all and sundry in the province to support the development of tourism and attract as many tourists as possible.
Meanwhile, the chief of the local Tourism and Creative Economic Office, Abraham Klakik, said in Kupang on Friday that the local government had set itself a target to attract one million tourists in 2013.
"Our target for the number of tourist arrivals to NTT in 2012 is 750,000, and in 2013 it can increase to 1 million," Abraham stated, referring to the international marine event of Sail Komodo 2013.
However, he pointed out that Sail Komodo 2013 was still awaiting the official go-ahead from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"Until now, the President has not yet issued an official decision on the event proposed by the provincial government of East Nusa Tenggara," Abraham said, adding that he had been informed that the decree was still being processed by the Coordinating Ministry for People`s Welfare.
"Last April, there was a letter from the ministry. It was signed by Coordinating Minister`s secretary Indroyono Soesilo, dated April 18, 2012," he noted.
"Once the decree is published, Sail Komodo 2013 will be launched officially in Jakarta and later in Kupang in order to attract tourists," Abraham said.
Even before Komodo National Park was declared as one of the "New7Wonders of Nature", he added, the number of tourists to the province had increased significantly.
Abraham said some tourists even postponed their visit to Labuan Bajo, at the western tip of Flores Island, because all the hotels in the town were fully booked.
"During the high season, there are not enough hotels in Labuan Bajo to accommodate the tourists, but we will try to overcome it in order to realise our dream of 1 million tourist visits in 2013," he explained.
He pointed out that the number of tourists visiting East Nusa Tenggara had risen significantly over the past six months.
"Observing the trend of increasing tourist visits to East Nusa Tenggara, from 148,673 visitors in 2010 to 412,072 tourists in 2011, we are optimistic that the number will continue to rise in 2012, especially after the announcement of Komodo as one of the New7Wonders of Nature," Abraham said.
Earlier in May 2012, the New7Wonders Foundation officially declared Komodo National Park as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
"The success of the Komodo National Park is an inspiring example of how a community can join hands to protect endangered species," said Bernard Weber, the president of the New7Wonders Foundation.
"The huge number of votes that came in from Indonesia reflected how Indonesian people were proud of their natural heritage," he added.
Komodo ambassador M. Jusuf Kalla, who is also the chief of the Komodo Kita Foundation advisory board, said Komodo Park had received more than 200 million votes.
"The process to determine Komodo National Park as one of the New7Wonders of Nature took more than five months," he noted.
Therefore, besides promoting Komodo Island through Sail Komodo 2013, the local government would continue its efforts to develop the natural, cultural, and historical tourism attractions in the province, Abraham said.
The NTT government is striving to make the tourism industry an economic pillar for the province and its 4.6 million people.
"Tourism must be the leading sector and the engine of economic development in NTT," Abraham said, when speaking in the context of the government`s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) programme.
According to the MP3EI programme, NTT is in the Bali-Nusa Tenggara corridor, as the gateway for tourism in the region.
Abraham noted the main economic activities in the corridor were related to three sectors: tourism, animal husbandry, and fisheries.
He said the tourism, fisheries, and animal husbandry sectors together made a significant contribution to the regional gross domestic product (GDP), of 47 percent for Bali, 36 percent for West Nusa Tenggara, and 56 percent for NTT.
With an average increase of 11 percent per year in their contribution to the regional GDP for the past five years, these three economic activities have the potential to become the economic engine in the Bali-Nusa Tenggara economic corridor.
"Through this corridor, the economy of NTT is expected to grow rapidly and significantly," Abraham stated, adding that tourism should become the leading sector of economic development in the province. (Antara)