Triwik Kurniasari, The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA
After more than a decade of tourism malaise on the Thousand Islands regency, the city has plans in store for a revival.
The city administration will procure more accessible public transportation to serve the regency, including enlarging its airport runway from 930 meters to 1,400 meters to allow bigger planes to land at the airport, first built in 1990.
“[The runway development] requires about Rp 180 billion [US$14 million], while we need Rp 300 billion to rebuild sea ports,” Regent Abdul Rachman said Wednesday.
The islets have faced a “tourism crisis” in the last 10 years, with more and more tourism business owners going bankrupt due to the decline in visitor numbers to the regency’s resorts, Abdul said.
“Of nine resorts on 45 islands, five are still in business, while the remainder are dying, with the occupancy rate dropping,” he said.
He added tourism on many islands was “dead or dying out”, including on Pelangi and Bira islets, famous for its golf course.
“Some islets still surviving are Pramuka, Sepa, Kotok, Putri, Ayer, Bidadari and Pantara,” Abdul added.
He blamed the lack of transportation and issuance of travel warnings from other countries for the drop in visitor numbers to the islets.
“Global warming and environmental degradation have also damaged out beautiful reefs,” he said.
“Garbage is also a big problem for us. Plastic bags and bottles, and oil spills that are sometimes found along the coastline, are very harmful to the coastal ecosystem. Nobody wants to visit to a dirty tourism destination, right?”
Culture and Tourism Agency head Arie Budhiman said the administration would try to provide cheap public transportation there.
“People are reluctant to go to the Thousand Islands because it’s so hard to get there. So we’re considering securing more access to the area,” he said.
“Besides rebuilding the public transportation system, we will also improve public facilities there.”
The regency, located 45 kilometers off the Jakarta coast, boasts a unique ecosystem comprising 110 islets, with most of the residents working as traditional fishermen.
Every islet has its own attractions. Pramuka, for instance, is famous for its raptors.
Bidadari is also a favorite place for family vacations or corporate meetings and getaways. It offers marine adventure activities for team-building exercises.
They can be reached by boat from Marina Ancol or Muara Angke Port.
In the 1980s, the Thousand Islands ranked third on a list of the world’s best islands, but are now renowned for the polluted surroundings, Abdul said.
“After 1998, when the economic crisis hit the country, tourist numbers dropped by 80 percent.
Fortunately, though, we’ve seen an increase in the past couple of years,” Abdul said, adding there were about 50,000 tourists in 2008.
Arie said the administration would hold a workshop and invite stakeholders, as well as the owners of some islets, to seek solutions to the problems.
“We hope more people will invest in the islands. The administration and government can’t just work this program ourselves; we need private companies to support this,” he said.