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Number of visitors to Lake Toba sinking fast: Boatmen

Apriadi Gunawan

The Jakarta Post

Parapat, North Sumatra  /  Thu, March 14, 2019  /  12:31 pm
Number of visitors to Lake Toba sinking fast: Boatmen

A fisherman on Lake Toba, North Sumatra. (Shutterstock/DH Saragih)

Boatman Andreas Siregar sat under a tree, looking right and then left, hoping to spot some tourists willing to charter his boat for a cruise on Lake Toba in Parapat, Simalungun regency, North Sumatra.

Andreas, the 20-year-old skipper of the KM Toba Cruise 11 vessel, is upset that he has not seen any potential customers for three days. He told The Jakarta Post that Lake Toba tourism had been quiet following the capsizing of the KM Sinar Bangun in June last year, which claimed the lives of more than 160 people.

Due to the declining number of tourists coming, many boatmen have become construction workers and farmers. Andreas himself has tried his luck as a construction worker because there are no tourists looking to charter boats.

“I had to work as a construction worker since tourism activities in the Lake Toba area became quiet. Only a few tourists have taken boat rides from Parapat to Tomok since the incident last year,” Andreas told the Post in Parapat on Tuesday.

He added that before the unfortunate incident, many Indonesian and foreign tourists came to visit Lake Toba. The busiest time used to start on a Wednesday and ended on a Sunday. The tourists used to take boat rides to cross Lake Toba from Parapat to Tomok, Samosir Island. But now, Lake Toba is very quiet even on national holidays and weekends.

The boats were chartered for prices ranging from Rp 600,000 (US$42.07) to Rp 800,000 for one-way trips, or passengers could buy individual tickets for Rp 25,000 per person.

Hudson Manurung, a tourist boat agent, said the incident involving the KM Sinar Bangun had a huge impact on the decline of tourism in the Lake Toba area. He added that it had been the quietest in his 20-year stint as a tourist boat agent.

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Lake Toba Authority Board president director Arie Prasetyo said the declining number of tourists to Lake Toba was not because of the KM Sinar Bangun incident.

“We are optimistic that tourism to Lake Toba will spike again. If it is quiet now, the cause is not last year’s sunken boat, but only because it is now low season,” Arie told the Post.

He added that the government was making more of an effort now to attract more tourists to Lake Toba by improving services and infrastructure.

The Tourism Ministry is targeting 1 million tourist visits to Lake Toba this year, but the North Sumatra administration is more pessimistic.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi said it was a challenge to attract 1 million visitors to Lake Toba this year, due to transportation issues and local residents’ readiness.

He felt that it was more realistic to expect 500,000 foreign visitors by 2023, adding that this was a number that could be revised depending on what the future holds for the destination. (mut)