Monday, April 21, 2014

Indonesia encourages tourists to explore eastern destinations

Indonesia is a large archipelago comprising more than 13 thousand islands and extending over 5,120 kilometers from its western most province of Aceh to eastern most province of Papua, which is mostly not yet explored. 

Having an official slogan of "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" or "Unity in Diversity," the country consists of hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups and has vast areas of wilderness that is home to the worlds second-largest biodiversity. 

"It may well be the last great adventure on earth. From the western tip of Sumatra to the eastern edge of Papua, this nation defies homogenization," Lonely Planet described Indonesia on its website (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia.)

Indonesia received a total of 8.8 million foreign tourists in 2013, up 9.2 percent from the previous year. In 2014, the tourism ministry expects to attract 9.5 million tourists to the country.

Bali has so far been the most famous tourist destination. Last year, the islands tourist resorts attracted 3.27 million foreign tourists, an increase of 13.37 percent from 2,892,019 in 2012.

For the first time, Indonesia will organize Bali and Beyond Travel Fair (BBTF) 2014 in Nusa Dua, on June 10-14, with the aim of attracting foreign tourists to visit the eastern Indonesian islands. The theme of BBTF 2014 is "Gateway to Indonesias Creative Tourism."

"Through this event, we have designed Bali as a window that lures foreign tourists to visit other destinations in eastern Indonesia," the tourism and creative economy ministrys director general for tourism marketing, Esthy Reko Astuty, stated on April 17, 2014.

Chairman of the BBTF organizing committee Ketut Ardana, who is also the chief of the Indonesian Travel Bureau Association (Asita), noted that the travel fair was aimed at promoting Bali as an entry point to other destinations, especially in eastern Indonesia.

Applying business-to-business and business-to-consumer concepts, the travel fair will be attended by 350 domestic and foreign buyers as well as 450 local sellers. 

Local sellers and foreign buyers from 55 countries, such as China and Australia, as well as from Europe, the ASEAN, and the Middle East, will participate in a business forum to be held on the sidelines of the travel fair.

By bringing buyers and sellers together in a single forum, the BBTF aims to promote the tourism industry through business sessions, a tourism seminar and direct promotion of best practices in the MICE and Leisure management, the BBTF 2014 official website said.

Together with exhibitors and buyers from 33 Indonesian provinces and many countries around the world, the BBTF 2014 will facilitate pre-scheduled appointments and business sessions for buyers and sellers to negotiate contracts for their long-term leisure and corporate travel needs. 

Corporations, travel agents, resort & hotel chains, cruise operators, convention planners, venue operators and travel buyers can leverage the three days of business-to-business sessions to enhance their respective brands in the Indonesian and Asia Pacific markets. 

In addition, to the B2B sessions, the comprehensive two and half days travel fair will have an extensive program of activities for delegates.

Expected to be the most comprehensive travel fair in Southeast Asia, the BBTF target is to generate Rp5 trillion in transactions. "We invested funds amounting to Rp21.7 billion to organize this event," he added.

Bali and Beyond concept promotes Bali as the entry point from where tourists can travel to various destinations in eastern Indonesia, such as East and West Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.

Eastern Indonesia is believed to have many unexplored and pristine natural treasures, such as marine parks and geo-parks, together with its unique traditions and culture. 

The exclusive tourist resort of Raja Ampat, which is located in the West Papua province, for instance, has one of the worlds best diving spots and unexplored geo-parks.

Raja Ampat has 1,320 fish species; 75 percent of the worlds coral species, 10 times the number of corals in the Caribbean; five species of rare turtles; 57 species of mantis shrimps; 13 species of marine mammals; and 27 species of rare fish.

In June this year, the Indonesian government will organize the Sail Raja Ampat as part of its annual international maritime event to bring the sailing contests participants and guests to the most exotic location in the country, and probably in the world.

The name Raja Ampat or "Four Kings" is derived from a local myth. It has four major islands: Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool, which are home to ancient rock paintings.

In total, the Raja Ampat district has about 1.7 thousand islands, including the unoccupied and beautiful island of Wayag, which is made of karst or limestone from the other islands.

Since 2009, Indonesia had organized the annual Sail Indonesia event on five previous occasions: Sail Bunaken 2009, Sail Banda 2010, Sail Wakatobi- Belitong 2011, Sail Morotai 2012 and Sail Komodo 2013--almost all of them are located in the eastern Indonesian islands.

Another exotic destination in eastern Indonesia is Banda islands, Maluku province. Banda is perched on the rim of Indonesias deepest underwater gorge, the Banda Sea, where waters can reach depths of over 6,500 meters.

Two of Bandas biggest islands, Banda Besar and Naira, are covered with nutmeg trees. The third island, Gunung Api or peak of fire, is an active volcano that emerges from the depths in a perfect cone, and is rugged and volcanic. 

In the waters surrounding these islands, one can find some of the worlds most spectacular marine gardens with bright corals and colorful fish bustling through the crystal-clear waters, which make it suitable for diving, snorkeling or even simply sightseeing.

Another unique destination is Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara province. The park is home to the Komodo dragon, the worlds only surviving prehistoric giant lizard.

The park includes the three larger islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar as well as numerous smaller ones covering a total area of 1,817 square kilometers.

In 1977, Komodo National Park was named a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Then in 1991, the UNESCO named the island, inhabited by about 3,000 komodo dragons, a world heritage site. 

With its colorful fishing villages, coral cays and deserted beaches of pale pink sand, the Komodo park was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011 by the conservation organization the New7Wonders Foundation. 

In South Sulawesi province, there is the Taka Bonerate National Park, which is home to the third-largest atoll in the world after Kwajifein in the Marshall Isles and Suvadiva in the Maldive Island. 

The total area of the atoll is about 220,000 hectares, with coral reefs spreading over 500 square kilometers. Taka Bonerate, which has won UNESCOs World Heritage recognition, is a Bugis name that means "Coral Piled Up On Sand." There are 15 islands in the Taka Bonerate National Park, where visitors can enjoy diving, snorkeling and marine tours. 

The Wakatobi marine park in Southeast Sulawesi, the Bunaken marine park in North Sulawesi, the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, Tanah Toraja and Bantimurung Karst in South Sulawesi, are just a few other examples of exotic tourist sites in eastern Indonesia.(Antara)

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