The Jakarta Post
Named one of the wonders of nature by UNESCO in 2011, the Komodo National Park in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, is becoming a popular tourist destination, visited by cruise ship passengers from around the world.
Various tourism events, such as Sail Komodo, held at Pede Beach in Gorontalo village, Komodo district, West Manggarai regency in September 2013, have attracted more tourists.
As of February, eight cruise ships visited the Komodo National Park, bringing 3,210 people, data from the Komodo National Park management reveals. This figure should continue to increase due to a number of holiday seasons tourists may want to enjoy until the end of this year. In 2015, 29 cruise ships were recorded to have brought 15,230 domestic and foreign tourists to spend their vacation at Komodo National Park.
'In total, 100,868 domestic and foreign tourists have visited Komodo National Park during the period of 2010 to February 2016,' the national park's spokesperson, Margaretha Priska, told thejakartapost.com in a recent interview.
She said non-tax state revenue ( PNBP ) from the park amounted to Rp 3.44 trillion ( US$258.80 million ) over the same period. In 2015, the national park generated Rp 19.29 billion, up sharply from Rp 5.49 billion in 2014 and Rp 4.41 billion in 2013.
Flores tourism activist Ferdinandus Watu told thejakartapost.com that Indonesia would become a prime destination for cruise ships in the next 10 years.
He further said it was predicted that more shipping companies would offer cruise destinations in Australia, China and countries of Southeast Asia.
Ferdinandus explained that in the period of November to February, people from countries in the northern hemisphere would typically go on cruises to tropical countries. Most cruise ships offered Singapore as a port of call, and Indonesia should be able to take advantage of growing demand for cruise vacations in tropical countries, he added.
'The question is: Is Indonesia ready?' asked Ferdinandus.
He went on to say that instead of Indonesia, many cruise lines offered Malaysia and Thailand as vacation destinations due to a number of obstacles in Indonesia. Apart from being burdened by illegal levies at ports, cruise ship companies have claimed they must deal with tough regulations that make it difficult for them to arrange visits to Indonesian destinations, including Flores. Poor infrastructure aggravated the situation.
Ferdinandus said most cruise ship passengers were 40 years of age or older and demanded certain comforts. 'Our facilities, such as air-conditioned cars and comfortable and well-equipped accommodation, as well as appropriate ports, are still limited,' said Ferdinandus.
'It is no surprise that only cruise ships with a passenger capacity of below 150 people can anchor in Flores. We cannot yet accommodate cruise ships of a greater capacity, as we still don't have appropriate ports,' he went on.
Ferdinandus said he had got this information when he attended the Cruiseship Miami program in Miami, US, from March 16 to 19 last year. Around 900 exhibitors and 11,000 participants from 125 countries had attended the event, he said.
Ferdinandus further explained that with its rich flora and fauna, Flores was awarded as 'the Most Unique Destination' during the Indonesia Tourism Award in 2010. Meanwhile in 2015, the Lonely Planet included Flores and the Komodo National Park as Best Travel Destinations.
Flores senior tourist guide Gabriel Pampur told thejakartapost.com recently that visits by both domestic and foreign cruise ship passengers had positively impacted the local economy, benefitting people living near Komodo National Park, adding that many tourists would buy handicrafts sold around the national park. ( ebf )