The Jakarta Post
This aerial picture taken of April 4 2019 shows Indonesia's Lake Toba, from Sigapitan, which covers some 1,707 square kilometers of North Sumatera, nearly twice the size of Singapore, the lake formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago, it is the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. (AFP/Goh Chai Hin)
Lake Toba has reportedly reopened to North Sumatra residents, but tourists from outside the province and abroad won't be allowed to visit the iconic destination until later this year.
"Domestic tourists from outside the region are welcome from August to October. Foreign tourists will likely be allowed to visit between November and January ," Samosir Regent Rapidin Simbolon said on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.
Despite the reopening, Rapidin said the local administration would continue to monitor tourist visits to curb the spread of COVID-19. Samosir regency remains the only Lake Toba area with green-zone status because it has reported zero COVID-19 cases.
"June is our promotion period and [we will conduct] trials in July starting with local tourists. Then, we will evaluate the situation prior to beginning a trial for domestic and foreign tourists," said Rapidin, adding that the regency administration would implement "new normal" tourism measures throughout, including for tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, entertainment providers and hot springs.
The Samosir regency administration manages 18 tourist sites in the Lake Toba area. Six others are run by village administrations, three by communities and three others are privately owned.
The head of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) in Samosir, Annette Horschmann Boru Siallagan, said the decision had been warmly welcomed by business players as many hotels and restaurants on Samosir Island had temporarily shut down due to the closure of Lake Toba.
However, there are some that have remained open despite the risks of COVID-19 transmissions.
Annette said that business players should consider creating new products and activities in response to the "new normal".
"I think we should offer more outdoor activities, such as trekking. Perhaps we can utilize the time we have right now to open new trekking trails in Samosir," she added.
Lake Toba is among the country's super-priority destinations. The largest volcanic lake in the world is surrounded by seven regencies, namely Samosir, Simalungun, Toba, Humbang Hasundutan, Tapanuli Utara, Karo and Dairi. (kes)
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