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Balikpapan Sees a Future in Tourism: Kalimantan

Balikpapan earned the nickname “Oil City” when Firma Samuel & Co. first carried out oil exploration activities here 110 years ago, but city planners hope the city will be known as something more than an oil-producing city in the future. As a major gateway to East Kalimantan it is increasingly a city of tourism, as evidenced by recent infrastructure development. As of October this year, 17 new hotels had started operations.

A number of luxury apartments such as Grand Sudirman and Sea View are new, and shopping malls such as Balikpapan Super Block and Pasar Baru Square are both nearing completion as Nurni Sulaiman writes.

The city boasts a number of tourist sites, such as Manggar and Lamaru beaches, and it has two esplanades, the Melawai and Banua Patra.

A number of historical attractions also await visitors, including the Meriam and Tugu Jepang (Japanese Monument).

Balikpapan is one of the biggest fish suppliers in the province, and also a center for semi-precious stones.

The Balikpapan Central Bureau of Statistics recorded a gross regional product of Rp 26.15 trillion (US$2.8 billion) in 2006, up slightly from 26.018 trillion in 2005.

The city-initiated income amounted to Rp 93.35 billion in 2006, dropping slightly to Rp 92.82 billion in 2007.

Balikpapan Mayor Imdaad Hamid said he envisioned the city on its way to becoming the “Bay City“.

In 2009, trucks of all sizes will no longer be allowed to pass through the city, as the industrial zone and container terminal will be relocated to the Kariangau Industrial Area (KIK) in the Balikpapan Bay area. The bay area will also function as a tourist site.

Imdaad said the KIK would be ready by 2009 at the latest. It will host a container, cargo and coal terminals.

It will also house heavy machinery workshops, wet and dry docks, a supply base, coal terminal and docks, a palm oil plant, coal storage facilities, a waste processing facility and warehouses.

The Kariangau Container Port Terminal, which spans 57.5 hectares, was built at a cost of $52.8 million and financed 70 percent by the Asian Development Bank. The remaining 30 percent came from the state budget.

“There will no longer be trucks and trailers entering the city in the future. They will be rerouted to Kariangau, so the Semayang Port, located in the city, will later be used as a passenger terminal,” said Imdaad.

“Balikpapan will also become more attractive and ready to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in 2010, acting as an industrial, service, trade and tourist city.

“Based on a survey by the Regional Autonomy Supervision Committee (KPPOD), Balikpapan is ranked the fourth most attractive city in Indonesia, after Batam, Cilegon and Padang.

“The KPPOD ranked Balikpapan on top in regards to security and favorable investment conditions. Let’s all retain the good image,” said Imdaad.

In terms of urban development, Balikpapan has emulated neighboring Malaysia in the education, economic and tourism sectors, signing related joint agreements with Tawau, Malaysia, in August.

The city has also provided incentives for investors, such as setting up an integrated one-roof licensing system in July this year.

In terms of people’s welfare, Balikpapan has decreased its number of poor people to 6.95 percent of its population.

People from the low-income bracket in Balikpapan are entitled to free health care and education until they reach senior high school.

The city has four international-level schools — SMPN 1 Junior High, SMAN 1 Senior High, and SMKN 1 and SMKN 4 state vocational schools — and plans to establish an environmental school by transforming SMAN 4 into the Mangrove School, which will study the cultivation of mangroves.

And in regard to cleanliness, this year Balikpapan won the Adipura award for the cleanest city in Indonesia for the 13th time.