The Jakarta Post
In 2012, American-based Cable News Network (CNN) included the Anambas Islands among the five top tropical island paradises in Asia ' alongside the Koh Chang and Similan islands, Thailand; Langkawi, Malaysia; and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.
However, despite Anambas' international recognition, foreign tourists are put off by the area's poor infrastructure.
In fact, even domestic tourists rarely choose Anambas and Natuna's isolated islands, let alone international visitors.
Natuna Development Planning Board (Bappeda) secretary Kadarisman told The Jakarta Post that the local administration was aware there had been a lack of effort when promoting the Natuna and Anambas Islands regencies' tourism potential.
However, even with limited promotion, Kadarisman said that Natuna's beauty had attracted Australian toursts to Senua Island, one of the regency's most isolated islands.
'A cruise ship from Australia comes to Senua at least once every two months. Although it is only 20 minutes from the capital city, many tourists have never been here as they prefer to spend the nights in tents in the abandoned islands,' he said.
Nothing is on Senua Island but a dilapidated dock and an abandoned lighthouse.
Like Natuna, the Anambas Islands Regency also has hundreds of inhabited islands with promising tourism potential. Most of the islands are owned by the locals.
'Our nature will remain isolated from outsiders unless we build an airport,' Kadarisman said.
He said that many overseas investors had been discouraged by the fact that the only airport was operated by the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU).
'The military's procedures to obtain entry permits confuses investors. Potential investors have said they had to pay additional costs to bring materials through the airport,' Kadarisman said.
To overcome this, the Natuna administration allocated Rp 206 billion to build a civil terminal near the existing airport. The administration aims to begin the operation as early as next year.
Additionally, the administration is also planning a maiden airport on Laut Island, an island in Natuna, by next year.
With better connectivity, the Natuna administration believed it could speed up the development programs already in hand, including the construction of a cold storage and fishing ports across the regency.
While the administration aims to enhance security in the Natuna waters with Rp 500 million for the Maritime and Fisheries Resources Monitoring Task Force (PSDKP) patrols every year, it also promised around Rp 16 billion to empower local fishermen.
Similarly, the Anambas Islands administration is constructing a commercial civil airport in Jemaja district to allow more domestic-commercial flights access enter the area.
The local government will gradually link the regency with international flights.
'We are looking for the best format to develop this huge region. Step by step, we believe it is attainable. We believe that an airport is among the infrastructure that will further our area,' Anambas Deputy Regent Abdul Haris said.
- Margareth Aritonang and Wendra Ajistyatama
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