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Samosir Reviving Tourism: Sumatra

The Samosir regency administration in North Sumatra is striving to
promote its agricultural hinterland into a popular tourism attraction and its main source of regional income over the next three years. Samosir Regent Mangindar Simbolon said that his administration was in the process of mapping the region as part of the effort to develop Samosir Island as a major tourism destination by 2010.

Mangindar said that the plan to promote the tourism sector had been taken based on the location of Samosir regency.
Samosir, which is located in the middle of Lake Toba, is believed to be capable of attracting a large number of tourists, he said.

Samosir, a regency with a population of about 131,000, has been focusing on the development of the tourism industry after being hived off from Toba Samosir regency two years ago Apriadi Gunawan continues to explain.

“We will rely on Simanindo, Pusuik Buit and Dewana Runggu districts in the regency as the main tourism agencies,” Mangindar said recently.

Mangindar said that his administration would take inventories in the three districts to identify their potential and to decide what needed to be done to further develop them.

He said that each of the three districts had its own unique attractions.

Mangindar acknowledged that the development of tourism in Samosir was closely related to the development of tourism at Lake Toba.

“We are determined to develop three sectors that can support each other — tourism, agribusiness and transportation,” he said.

A cooperative venture with six other nearby regencies has been developed with the support of the State Ministry for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions.

Mangindar said he hoped that under the venture, an agency to be named the Lake Toba Tourism Board would be set up in 2008 to manage the tourism sector.

Mangindar, however, expressed concern over a decrease in the number of tourists visiting Lake Toba due to mismanagement.

“I’m sure Lake Toba tourism can be revived and attract more tourists if it is managed professionally by all relevant institutions. And of course, this will increase the regency’s revenue,” he added.

“That’s why we want the board to be managed by independent professionals, not officials of the regional administrations. The regency administrations will just function as the owners,” he said.

He expressed the hope that the board would also formulate an appropriate concept for managing tourism at Lake Toba.

“We need to establish collaboration between all the regencies that are connected directly with Toba Lake in order to resolve obstacles hampering tourism development. We also need to cooperate with the private sector to overcome the problems we face,” he added.

Meanwhile, Maranti Tobing, chairman of the Samosir chapter of the Indonesian Restaurant and Hotel Association, admitted that both Samosir and Lake Toba had not been managed properly due mainly to a lack of promotion.

He said that almost all parts of Lake Toba were now covered by water hyacinth, locally known as eceng gondok, and widespread fish farming had ruined the lake’s tourism potential.

“We need a serious commitment from both the central and local governments to develop tourism in Lake Toba and Samosir,” he added.

Mangindar said that Toba Lake would be cleared of the wild eceng gondok, which would be used as raw material in the production of handicrafts. He said that the administration had also approached owners of the fish farms to urge them to move to more appropriate areas.

The regent further said that the Samosir regency administration’s budget for 2007 amounted to Rp 313 billion (US$34.70 million), but was unable to say exactly how much of this had been allocated for tourism development.