The promising tourism sector in Indonesias Belitung islands is expected to become an economic powerhouse for the local community and an important source of foreign exchange for the nations economy.
Belitung islands are known for their natural beauty, including the blue ocean and white sandy beaches, with crystal clear water and clean air.
The area is ideal for visitors to engage in water sports, such as swimming, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and water skiing, among several other activities.
Hundreds of small and medium uninhibited islands, with coral atolls and scenic underwater reefs as well as natural abstract granite rock sculptures in Belitung lie just offshore, waiting to be explored.
In light of this, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya has encouraged the people of Belitung to work hard and get involved in the development of tourism.
Regarding the existing obstacles in Belitung, such as the lack of infrastructure, the tourism minister pledged that the central government would lend assistance.
Yahya also called on the people of Belitung and the visitors to preserve the environment as a tourist charm.
"Preserve the environment, and do not harm it as tourism has a slogan that the more the environment is preserved, the more prosperity it will bring to the people," the tourism minister affirmed in Belitung on Wednesday.
Yahya expressed hope that Belitung would, in future, be similar to Maldives in terms of tourism in order to improve the income of the local community.
"My dream is that someday, Belitung can be similar to Maldives in terms of tourism and be called the Maldives of Indonesia," Yahya said, adding that the tourism sector of Maldives generates 300 times greater revenue than that earned by the Belitung region.
The tourism minister reiterated that Belitung can be similar to Maldives as tourism is the largest economic industry that plays an important role in generating foreign exchange revenues.
Due to their alluring underwater scenery and clean water, the Maldives is ranked among the best recreational diving destinations of the world.
It was also reported to be the worlds most desired honeymoon destination, according to a global survey by Agoda.com.
Therefore, Yahya was optimistic that in future, Belitung can attract at least one million tourists, with each spending around US$ two thousand.
"This way, the per capita income of the people of Belitung can reach US$10 thousand, or twice that of the people of Indonesia," the tourism minister noted.
According to manager of Batu Mentas Natural Park Manager Budi Setiawan, the local government of Belitung has planned to develop an integrated tourism destination in Batu Mentas, Badau sub-district, to attract more visitors.
"Batu Mentas is a new tourism destination, which will be developed on the principles of conservation and local peoples empowerment," Setiawan has said.
He noted that one of the main objectives of the integrated tourism project was to get the local people involved in the development of the destination and improve their economic welfare.
"We do not want the local people to be left behind while Belitung tourism makes rapid progress. We want them to take part in this," Budi said.
The plan to develop Batu Mentas as an integrated tourism destination in Belitung began to take shape in 2011.
"The place offers plenty of scope for wildlife education. Visitors can enjoy the wildlife sanctuary at night-time, watching the native Belitung animal," Budi explained.
According to him, Batu Mentas can also serve as a natural amusement park where visitors can engage in jungle trekking and can set up camps.
"Tourists can also teach English to the local children while learning about local handicrafts at the Batu Mentas workshop and souvenirs center," Budi stated.
Belitung is made up of many islands with beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and unique landscapes.
The islands are also known for their granite boulder and white stone beaches in Tanjung Tinggi, Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Binga, and Lengkuas Island.
This beautiful nature is also accompanied by hundreds of other small islands, which add to the beauty of tourism area in Belitung with the best and unique beaches in Indonesia.
Unluckily the presence of tin dredging ships, operated by a tin mining company at Belitung waters, is threatening the tourism on the islands.
"Belitung islands have already been established as the third national tourism destination in Indonesia after Bali and Lombok," according to Bangka-Belitung political figure Antonius Uston.
But he deeply regretted that the presence of tin dredging ships in Belitung was threatening the marine and natural tourism on the islands.
"Off shore tin mining by the tin dredging ships, operated by PT Timah, will certainly harm the marine ecosystem and the coral reefs at Belitung islands maritime tourism objects," Antonius deplored.
According to him, the presence of such ships would damage the environment and the beauty of the sea in Belitung, and therefore PT Timah should stop operating the ship at Belitungs waters.
Like in many other developing countries, tourism in Indonesia has proven able to contribute to economic growth as well as to the reduction of poverty and unemployment.
Because of that, Indonesia has set ambitious targets for tourism growth this year, as the country looks to realize its potential as a leading international destination for visitors and expand an important part of the economy. (Antara)