The Jakarta Post
Hundreds of tourists have reportedly canceled trips to Weh Island in Sabang, Aceh, as the result of recent violence allegedly committed by locals against tourists celebrating the New Year.
A local regulation that banned the people of Aceh from celebrating the New Year in any way has been blamed for triggering the incident.
'The eviction and disturbance of tourists from our inn has tarnished and disturbed the tourism climate in Sabang,' the owner of Casa Nemo Inn, Gianluca Guidotti, said on Wednesday.
Guidotti said that trip cancellations to Sabang were not just by foreign tourists but also domestic tourists.
'This January alone some 100 tourists from Spain have canceled their trip to Aceh because of this case,' Guidotti said.
The eviction occurred on Jan. 1 at Casa Nemo Beach in Ie Meule subdistrict, Sabang city, Aceh, as tourists and visitors were celebrating the New Year with a small music concert.
The incident started when a group of youths asked the tourists to disperse.
The youths said the tourists had violated sharia by celebrating the New Year in Aceh, the country's only province implementing Islamic law.
The youths reportedly also provoked visitors and damaged property belonging to the inn management and the concert's event organizer.
Rumors also claim that the incident was triggered by a minor problem related to the uneven distribution of parking management.
'We really regret the violence. The administration must handle this problem as soon as possible. Otherwise, this will disturb the tourism climate in Aceh overall,' tour operator Hasbi Azhar of Keliling Aceh said.
Hasbi said that the incident could have a domino effect on other regions in the province because Sabang was considered the representation of tourism in Aceh.
The incident, he added, could be a serious threat to tourism in Aceh, which in turn could also influence the people's economy.
'The administration must act quickly to save tourism in Aceh because the sector is the province's economic mainstay,' Hasbi said.
Separately, the local police have been investigating the incident. They said it might have had nothing to do with the New Year celebration but have been more because of conflict related to parking management between local youths and the owner of the inn.
'It was not violence, locals were just scaring tourists,' Sabang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Nurmeiningsih said.
Nurmeiningsih said the police would handle the case thoroughly so it would not worsen the situation.
'The locals indeed have made tourists feel uncomfortable because of this. This is a violation,' she said.