The Jakarta Post
Surfers in the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, can soon expect a much better experience in one of the world's best surfing destinations in exchange for a small additional fee.
Located off the western coast of Sumatra, Mentawai is home to dozens of surf spots, some of which offer world-class waves.
Last year alone, the regency attracted 7,000 local and international surfers, some of whom were willing to pay US$ 2,500 per trip to explore the islands and find the most challenging waves to conquer.
In an effort to provide better services and in anticipation of an increasing number of tourists, the Mentawai Islands regional administration issued last year a bylaw on the management of surfing excursions that stipulates, among other things, the imposition of 'surfing fees' for both domestic and foreign tourists.
Under the bylaw, all foreign and local surfers visiting Mentawai are required to pay Rp 1 million (US$75) and Rp 250,000, respectively, for a 15-day period.
Payments are to be made online, while identification wristbands are to be collected at the provincial capital of Padang or Mentawai. The new regulation is scheduled to take effect in August after the regional administration completes supporting regulations that detail fee collection procedures.
Local authorities, meanwhile, believe that the new fees are relatively low compared with the facilities they are offering to surfers.
Such fees, for example, would give surfers a fair chance to ride the most sought-after waves in the region, said Mentawai Islands Tourism Agency head Desti Seminora.
'Currently, many surfers must compete against each other to secure surf spots on particular beaches,' she said.
'By paying certain fees, surfers will be guaranteed spots on the beach as our officers will allow a maximum of 20 surfers to surf in a particular spot every morning and afternoon.'
Desti also said the local administration would use the additional income from the fees to develop supporting facilities, including guard posts and medical emergency facilities, to improve safety and comfort.
West Sumatra Surfing and Tourist Ship Association (AKSSB) head Aim Zen said it was time for the regional administration to enjoy revenue from its natural and marine tourism potential.
Aim also considered the fees 'very reasonable'.
He, however, urged the local administration to pay serious attention to several matters if it wished to implement the regulation, such as ensuring that the surf spots were free from illegal levies collected by thugs and the local community.
'The Mentawai Islands regency administration must also immediately provide basic supporting facilities in the surf spots, such as security, or police posts, lifeguards, health posts for emergencies and communications equipment at the posts for better coordination,' said Zen.
AKSSB members currently operate 34 yachts and 11 boats to accommodate surfers' trips to Mentawai.
Each boat or yacht can transport at least a dozen tourists per trip, costing each passenger around $2,500.
The director of Kandui Resort on Siberut Island, Anom Suheri, also welcomes the implementation of the surfing fees.
'However, for the sake of business certainty, the regulation must be implemented consistently,' he said.
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