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Jakarta Post

Tana Toraja set to prosper as major tourist destination

  • Farida Susanty

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 9, 2017   /   09:01 am
Tana Toraja set to prosper as major tourist destination Toraja traditional Tongkongan house. (Shutterstock, Inc./File)

Designation of Toraja as prioritized tourism destination to help improve accessibility, spurs development World Bank may become engaged in development of Toraja

Some tourist destinations have made a name for themselves long before the authorities granted them the special attention they deserve.

For many foreigners, Tana Toraja rings a bell because of its widely distributed coffee as well as its cultural heritage sites exposed in international publications and at global tourism trade fairs.

However, it was only recently that the government decided to designate Tana Toraja, the pride of South Sulawesi, as one of its emerging tourist destinations to be developed as a matter of priority, along with 10 others appointed earlier.

A special team comprising members of various ministries and agencies had been set up to speed up the development of Tana Toraja, said Deputy Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Safri Burhanuddin.

“Tana Toraja itself is already part of the national strategic tourism area, so we will only need to carry out an integrated study to develop Toraja further,” said Safri, who oversees human resources, knowledge and technology as well as maritime culture at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister.

(Read also: Toraja to be next top-priority tourist destination)

The team’s main tasks will include improving access to the area, particularly by expanding Pongtiku Airport and completing the construction of Buntu Kunik Airport.

At present, tourists typically embark on a nine-hour car ride from the provincial capital of Makassar to reach Tana Toraja.

Safri said the aim was to promote Tana Toraja as Indonesia’s main cultural destination.

Home to thousands of indigenous Torajan people, the area is widely known for its unique traditional funeral ceremonies, beautiful housing architecture and buffalo fighting, among other things.

Tana Toraja welcomed 296,136 domestic and 34,865 foreign tourists in 2015, according to Tourism Ministry data.

In the same year, North Toraja hosted 286,669 domestic and 32,763 foreign tourists.

The government hopes to double arrivals by 2019.

A recent visit by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, himself a South Sulawesi native, had played a significant role in the area’s designation as the 11th emerging tourist destination, Safri said.

The government has declared tourism one of the country’s main sectors to develop and expects to garner US$20 billion in foreign exchange revenue in 2019, double the figure of 2013.

To achieve this goal, it eyes 15 million foreign tourists this year and 20 million next year.

(Read also: Respecting the dead in Toraja)

From January to November last year, foreign tourist arrivals stood at 10.4 million, according to Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, with 12 million targeted for the full year.

The prioritized development of 10 destinations, such as Mandalika, West Nusa Tenggara and Tanjung Kelayang, Bangka Belitung, is expected to contribute half of the 20 million target.

The designation of Tana Toraja as the 11th destination on the list has yet to be backed up by any legal basis, but the government is in talks with the World Bank and other parties to help develop the area.

The World Bank is set to pour $300 million into the construction of infrastructure at Lake Toba, Borobudur and Mandalika.

Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) South Sulawesi chapter secretary Nasrullah welcomed the decision to put Toraja on the emerging destination list, saying this would support the area’s accessibility and development.

“In terms of accommodation, we are pretty much ready. We have 1,500 rooms at star-rated hotels in Toraja. Just the accessibility is still a hindrance,” he said.

Nasrullah added that the new status would likely spur investment in accommodation in the area once the accessibility issue was solved.

Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies Association (Asita) chairman Asnawi Bahar also supported the designation, as, he claimed, Toraja had already been ahead of other emerging destinations.