Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indonesia to spearhead ATGC 2011

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia will spearhead the 1st ASEAN Tourist Guides Contest 2011 (ATGC 2011) as a form of the country`s support as ASEAN chairman.

"It is part of Indonesia`s tourism promotion effort in the eyes of tourist guides in all ASEAN countries," Ministry of Tourism`s Director General of Tourism Destination Development, Firmansyah Rahim, said here on Wednesday.

He said the objective of organizing the 1st ASEAN Tourist Guides Contest 2011 was to rediscover quality standard, knowledge, skills, and good attitude as tourist guides in carrying out their tasks properly and professionally.

Besides, the objective is also to get a professional and competent guide who can be a model in supporting tourism sector at ASEAN level.

"Through this event we want to improve mutually-beneficial cooperation among ASEAN member countries to prepare the guides as qualified human resources," Firmansyah said.

He said the contest was also expected to produce ASEAN guides management through Southeast of Asia Tourist Guide Associations (SEATGA) organization.

The organization also supports tourism development in respective countries and accommodate ASEAN countries tourism interest in a game of international tourism.

"We hope this contest can unite and strengthen friendship among the guides from ASEAN countries," Firmansyah said, adding that they could exchange knowledge and experience.

Firmansyah said that as the initiator of ATGC 2001, Indonesia would take greater advantage from the event.

According to him, procedures of the contest have already been standardized through several official meetings, both at ASEAN Tourism Working Group Meeting in Vietnam, and in ASEAN NTO`s Meeting in Laos several months ago.

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Tourism operators hail common visa plan

Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) - Tourism operators in the Indonesian tourist resort island of Bali have hailed a plan to introduce a common visa within countries grouped in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"The implementation of the common visa within the region will benefit tourism industry operators," Chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association Ngurah Wijaya said here on Thursday.

He said the imposition of the common visa would enable a person to enter all countries in the region with a visa issued by one of the countries.

"Yet, the imposition of a common visa will correct slightly the growth in the use of visa on arrival," he said.

But Wijaya is of the view that the implementation of the common visa would benefit the tourism sector in Indonesia, particularly the Island of gods, Bali.

The government set 2.7 million foreign tourist arrivals in Bali of its national foreign tourist arrival target of 6.7 million in 2011.

He said that Bali`s tourism industry businesses said they supported the common visa plan. Moreover, many countries in the region, including Indonesia, now has open air transportation access which directly connect big cities in the region.

"There have been 17 main gates which connect big cities in ASEAN," he said.

In the meantime, Secretary General of the Indonesia Restaurant and Hotel Association (IRHA) for Bali Perry Markus said that the reduction of income from the visa on arrival as a result of the common visa policy could be solved with a multiple effect that would be created by the increasing number of visitors.

"We will maximize it," Perry said.

He said that the imposition of the common visa would increase boost the development of creative industry which has the potential to support the tourism industry.

The value of Bali`s creative industrial product exports in August 2011 reached US$51.94 million, up 8.85 percent from the previous month.

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North Maluku Prepared to Host Sail Morotai 2012

JAKARTA, - Blessed with natural and marine beauty with various coral reefs, schools of decorative fishes, tempting diving sites, and historical tourist facilities, North Maluku province is now prepared to host Sail Morotai 2012.

North Maluku Governor Thaib Armaiyn has expressed optimism that the international marine event would be realized, no matter an unfounded rumor that it would be canceled. Even the governor and Sail Morotai 2012 local committee chairman Muhadjir Albar will in the near future meet with President Yudhoyono in Jakarta to report the preparation for the event.

"We will soon meet with the president in Jakarta to report that we are prepared to host Sail Morotai 2012 but we are now still waiting for confirmation from the state secretariat," the governor said in Ternate recently.

It was President Yudhoyono who actually suggested that North Maluku stage an international marine event, namely Sail Morotai, because he was inspired with the success Indonesia scored by organizing Sail Banda 2010 in Maluku. The head of state made the suggestion when speaking at a ceremony in Ternate, North Maluku, marking the relocation of the province’s capital from Ternate to Sofifi on Halmahera island in August 2010.

"We have just organized Sail Banda, and in reality it attracted so many participants from many countries and developed the economy in Maluku. Therefore, I hope we can organize a Sail Morotai in North Maluku," the President said at the time.

President Yudhoyono on the occasion also threw his weigh behind the North Maluku provincial administration’s wish to turn Morotai Island into a special economic zone. Therefore the North Maluku governor said that when he met with the president, he would solicit funds from the central government for the improvement of various infrastructure in Morotai island.

Governor Thaib Armaiyn pointed out that North Maluku provincial and Morotai district governments have allocated funds from Regional Budget to fix a number infrastructure in Morotai district town of Daruba. Meanwhile, the event local committee chairman Muhadjir Albar said in Ternate on Saturday that Sail Morati 2012 would continue to be held in accordance with the originally planned schedule in spite of the rumors that it would be canceled.

"The rumors about the cancellation of the international marine event in Morotai are incorrect. The truth is that the event will be conducted as scheduled," Muhadjir said.

Therefore he called on the local community and all related parties in North Maluku to ignore the misleading issues and continued to make various preparations for Sail Morotai 2012. According to him, Sail Morotai was part of central government’s program, and therefore it was ready to allocate oter funds for various infrastructure improvements in Morotai.

Muhadjir said North Maluku provincial and Morotai district governments have since 2010 allocated a big amount of funds for the improvement of infrastructure in the district. The funds were spent on road widening and rehabilitation of local people houses for home stay.

"The Sail Morotai supporting infrastructure will be completed before the international marine event in 2012," said the event’s local committee chairman.

He noted that the event would be of a great importance for North Maluku to promote its tourism and investment potential, especially in the field of fisheries, mining, and plantation. Muhadjir said Governor Thaib Armaiyn has since 2010 promoted Sail Morotai 2012 both at home and abroad, namely in Taiwan and South Korea.

During his visit to South Korea in September 2010, Governor Thaib Armaiyn also promoted the international maritime and yachting event in the country. According to Acting Head of Morotai district, Sukemi Sahab, the governor during his visit promoted Sail Morotai 2012 to South Korean community members.

The North Maluku governor visited South Korea to join the Investment National Coordinating Board’s investment promotion mission, in addition to introducing Sail Morotai to South Koreans. Sukemi Sahab said that for North Maluku, the Sail Morotai was a meaningful and strategic international event because it would put the province on to the world’s tourism and investment maps.

The arrival of foreign tourists and sailors for the Sail Morotai events would introduce the greatness of North Maluku province’s tourism and investment potentials, he said. "For the Morotai Island district, Sail Morotai will positively contribute to tourism, investment, and infrastructure construction," Sukemi said.

In addition, North Maluku provincial administration spokesman Umar Hasan has said in Ternate that broken bridges and roads in Morotai have been mended. Divers accommodations in the form of hostels and procurement of diving equipment have also been made available in a bid to make the international marine event of Sail Morotai a success.

Umar said the local government would also build three docks in Morotai district for the upcoming Sail Morotai 2012. "We will focus on the construction of three docks in Morotai because the new district is located in a border area where Sail Morotai will take place in 2012," Umar Hasan said.

According to him, the new district of Morotai got a special attention from central government. Umar said the construction of three docks in Morotai would receive funds amounting Rp2.1 billion from 2011 regional budget, and also from state budget, focused on supporting the public activity through sea transportation.

The docks will be located at the shipping route of the participants of Sail Morotai from foreign countries. Other supporting infrastructures at Morotai district would be improved for the success of the international marine event.

"Therefore the local government will build three docks namely in Dodola, Posi-Posi, and Bere-Bere," Umar said, adding that the three locations were strategic and representative for the Sail Indonesian participants to visit Morotai.

In addition, he said the docks would be used to support the international marine event of Sail Morotai 2012 and to step up the local community’s economy and welfare.

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Trouble lurks for Indonesia's "last paradise"

Cottages are built over the water at Kri Island private resort in Raja Ampat located in eastern Indonesia's Papua region. Called the last paradise on earth, Raja Ampat acrchipelago was nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its largely pristine environment which is considered as one of the most important marine biodiversity in the world.

Cottages are built over the water at Kri Island private resort in Raja Ampat located in eastern Indonesia's Papua region. Called the last paradise on earth, Raja Ampat acrchipelago was nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its largely pristine environment which is considered as one of the most important marine biodiversity in the world.

Photograph by: Romeo Gacad, Getty Images

WAISAI, Indonesia - Huts on stilts perch above the coral of the turquoise lagoon, hammocks awaiting a lazy siesta and sunset cocktails. The Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat is a living Eden. But for how long?

This remote pearl of Asia between the Pacific and Indian oceans in eastern Indonesia’s Papua province has remained a closely guarded secret and one of the last frontiers of tourism, known only to intrepid travellers and avid divers.

Raja Ampat’s palm-fringed islands, surrounded by an underwater kaleidoscope of coral and fish, are described by the regional tourism office as "the last paradise on earth".

A 2002 report by U.S.-based Conservation International (CI) classed the waters as "potentially the world’s richest in terms of marine biodiversity," with nearly 1,400 varieties of fish and 603 species of coral.

The 610 rocky islets of Raja Ampat - meaning Four Kings in Indonesian - are sprinkled over an area of 4.5 million hectares , boasting 750 kilometres of pristine sandy beaches.

"It’s the best diving in the world," said Pam Roth, an enthusiast for 33 years. "I like the remoteness of the place. You don’t see a lot of people here," the 78-year-old retired Londoner said.

But trouble is lurking.

In the Papua mainland, a thousand kilometres southeast of Raja Ampat, calls for independence by Papua’s indigenous Melanesian population that began decades ago have become more vocal in recent years, after Indonesia’s turn toward democracy in 1998.

Tribal and local leaders accuse the government of robbing rich forests and mines, polluting water and land in the resource-rich region, and putting little back into one of the country’s poorest areas.

The Papua region is off-limits to foreign journalists.

Last month eight people were killed in ambushes and clashes with police after an ongoing workers’ strike at a gold and copper mine operated by U..S company Freeport McMoRan turned ugly near Timika, a city in Papua’s mainland.

Because of the distance from the mainland, the sparsely populated Raja Ampat islands remain largely untouched by the troubles for now.

The small number of adventurers arriving each year to the idyllic isles remain focused on diving and nature, largely unaware of the problems of the region.

So far, the islands have remained largely protected from another scourge: mass tourism.

They house only seven "resorts" (with three under construction), each with a dozen villas at most. In addition, 39 "liveaboards" with a maximum of 20 people aboard each vessel, ply the waters.

In all, last year Raja Ampat welcomed only 4,515 visitors - one for every 1,000 hectares - each paying up to $5,000 a week for a villa nestled in the mangroves or a cabin in a traditional wooden boat.

But that could change, as the islands gear up to attract and welcome more tourists.

Remoteness has been the main bulwark against mass tourism. With no air link, the most practical way is to land in Sorong, the closest town, and take a three- or four-hour ride on a wheezy ferry that began operating last year.

Signs of change are visible in a runway being hacked out of the forest, where chainsaws clearing the way for an airport due to open next year drown out the singsong of exotic birds.

A road connecting the future airport runs beside a stunning, translucent bay rich with coral that was once completely isolated but now is threatened by the impending scourges of construction and tourism.

"We hope it (the airport) will bring many tourists from many countries," enthused Yusdi Lamatenggo, the regional tourism minister.

But Jimmy Praet, manager of a company that pioneered tourism in Raja Ampat, feared that "an airport will make this place too accessible: it’s so remote and unique now".

Praet’s "Papua Diving," which opened the first resort in the mid 1990s, rents a dozen villas nestled between jungle and sandy beach or perched above the lagoon on the island of Kri, to up to 34 privileged guests.

"If they want this to be another Bali, the tourists will leave," Praet warned, referring to the popular Indonesian island which is often seen as a victim of mass tourism.

"We do not want to compete with Bali, we do not want to develop big resorts like in Bali," insisted Hari Untoro Dradjat, senior adviser at the National Tourism Ministry.

"Quality, not quantity, is the goal," he added. "We believe in the protection of the uniqueness of this area."

The number of tourists arriving in Raja Ampat is "actually still very low compared to other tourism destinations, nonetheless there are already signs of overcrowding on specific popular dive sites," said Mark Erdmann, senior advisor for Conservation International in Indonesia.

"The important thing will be to carefully manage tourism development to spread the pressure over a greater area of Raja Ampat and avoid crowding on popular sites," he said.

He welcomed a new regulation adopted in July restricting the number of resorts to 20, about three times the present number.

In May 2007, the government imposed an entrance fee of 500,000 Indonesian rupiah ($56) for foreign visitors and 250,000 for Indonesians, with 30 percent of the proceeds going to the regional tourism ministry, and the rest for conservation, education and health.

"Raja Ampat is eco tourism not mass tourism like Bali," insisted Lamatenggo, citing as proof the recent creation of seven marine parks covering a total of 1.2 million hectares, or 45 percent of the region’s reefs and mangroves.

But the government has refused to yield on development, despite repeated objections by NGOs in Indonesian Papua.

Erdmann said that construction was beginning to take its toll on the fragile ecosystem.

"Raja Ampat right now is already suffering from a number of ill-conceived government infrastructure development projects, especially from ‘ring road’ development around many of the bigger islands," he said.

"There is in fact no real justification for these roads, as the people of Raja Ampat do not have any cars or motorbikes but rely on sea transportation," Erdmann stressed, adding that the work is smothering precious reefs.

He complained that the government had turned a deaf ear to calls for a system of public ferries to transport people and goods, in large part because crooked contractors and corrupt officials were pushing road projects, which were being built haphazardly and with little regard for the ecosystem.

Devastating assaults on the archipelago are also coming from dynamite fishing - which is officially banned but "still exists" according to Lamatenggo - and from coastal mining projects.

"I’d expect they’ll ruin the place," joked Helmut Hochstetter, a 60-year-old German, as he prepared for a dive in the company of manta rays.

"Better then to enjoy it while we still can," he said before disappearing under water.

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A Holiday Without Cigarettes: Smoking Ban To Hit Bali

Denpasar. Bali visitors as well as locals might find it harder to smoke on the tropical island after the provincial legislature passed a new bylaw on Anti-Smoking Areas on Monday.

“I want all people to be healthy and the bylaw is an implementation of the 2009 Health Law,” Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika said after attending the Bali legislative council (DPRD) plenary meeting.

“Regarding this smoking ban in tourism centers, I think tourists will understand. Instead, it is Bali’s people who often do not understand.”

The bylaw mandates that all tourism destinations or “tourism support facilities” like hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and discotheques will be smoke-free.

It also bans smoking in places of worship, health facilities, schools, children’s playgrounds and public places like markets and airports. Public buses will also be smoke-free, as well all government offices, including police and military offices.

In addition to banning smoking in these places, the bylaw also forbids the sale of cigarettes and tobacco advertisements at these locations.

Breaching this new bylaw carries a maximum sanction of six months imprisonment or a fine of Rp 50 million ($5,450).

“The bylaw is definitely needed to protect people from the dangers of smoking,” said Utami Dwi Suryadi, secretary of the bylaw committee. “It needs to be implemented seriously and strictly. We need to educate people about the impacts of smoking.”

Bali Health Agency Head Nyoman Sutedja said that especially for hotels, the government will assess the implementation of the bylaw.

“The assessment results will be used to rank [hotel] compliance towards the bylaw,” he said. “So there will be hotels with blue, yellow or red category ratings. Blue category means totally free from cigarette smoke.”

Pastika said his administration would begin informing the public about the new regulation and educating them about the dangers of smoking.

Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, said officials might have trouble enforcing the regulation in public facilities like the DPRD building, where the bylaw was passed on Monday.

“Every time I am invited for a hearing at the DPRD, members smoke in the meeting room,” he said. “But I don’t think we will have a problem from tourists.”

Tengara Swara Tama, a manager at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuta, said that even before the bylaw was passed, the restaurant had planned to be smoke-free by next year.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Two giant Rafflesia flowers reach full bloom in Bengkulu

Two of the rare and endemic flowers of Indonesia, the Rafflesia arnoldii, have reached full bloom at the Taba Penanjung Nature Sanctuary in Central Bengkulu District, Bengkulu province. The giant flowers are located in an area about 100 meters from the main road connecting the town of Bengkulu with Kepahiang district on the island of Sumatra.

The two flowers bloomed at the same time and are located only 15 meters from each other, stated Anggi, a local resident who is said to have found the blooming flowers. "We found three flowers within a radius of 20 meters, but one has withered, and the remaining two are now in full bloom," he added.

A week earlier, a blooming Rafflesia arnoldii was also found in the Bukit Daun Nature Reserve in the Kepahiang District.

Coordinator for the Tebat Monok Rare Flowers Devoted Group (Kelompok Peduli Puspa Langka), Holidin, said that this year there are already 13 flowers found blooming within the forest area. Currently, there are approximately six flowers expected to bloom near the first two. “We estimate that there will at least be one more flower that will reach full bloom this week” he added.

Holidin also mentioned that the Bukit Daun and Taba Penanjung I and II Nature Reserves are endemic habitat of the Rafflesia arnoldii Flower. However, just as other forests, it faces the threat of deforestation, where illegal farming activities are turning the forest into coffee fields. Holidin hopes that the government will take more serious actions to protect and preserve the forest of Sumatra, especially in Bengkulu , since the very existence of the exotic and rare Rafflesia arnoldii flowers depend on them.

Rafflesia arnoldiii is a member of the genus Rafflesia which is noted for producing the largest individual flower on earth, spreading a strong stench of decaying flesh - the latter point earning it the nickname of "corpse flower". Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the three national flowers in Indonesia that are officially recognized as national "rare flowers" in Presidential Decree No. 4 of 1993, the other two being the small white, sweet smelling jasmine and the resplendent white moon orchid.

The flower was first “discovered” by British Governor General Sir Stamford Raffles, to whom the rafflesia owes its name.

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KOMODO-FLORES, Indonesia’s latest Exciting Destination

“We don’t want our clients to fly over ten hours from Europe just for a two-day visit to Komodo, said Heinz Hirter, European tour operator on a fam trip to Flores,as he captured the warm hospitality of the people at the traditional village of Belaraghi on Flores island. “Komodo is surely spectacular, but they (their clients) also need other attractions”, he continued.

Heinz Hirter and 10 other operators from Europe and America were in Flores last October in search of new destinations and tourist attractions.

Kelimutu and Komodo are the highlights of Flores for the time being, but out there are still a lot of attractions that can be introduced to tourists which can also help raise the welfare of the people of Flores through Tourism” said Ruedi Nuetzi, Asia’s program director of Swisscontact who invited 10 leading tour operators from Europe and 5 from Indonesia to join the Familiarization Trip (Fam Trip) he initiated to find new attractions.

There are a lot of attractions that deserve to be introduced to the world in order to reduce the burden on the Komodo National Park, which has risen rapidly in popularity but has also become physically threatened by the sudden increase of visitors, said Nuetzi as the group on tour met the heads of each district Tourist Office.

A number of accommodations in Maumere, Moni, Ende, Bajawa and Ruteng are really liked by tour operators who agreed that their clients will enjoy staying at clean, well maintained, and friendly hotels and guesthouses.”Clean bathrooms, fans or air conditioners, warm and friendly staff, - that will be enough. Add Wi-fi availability, that would be perfect” said John Hessing, Dutch tour operator who specialized his tour packages for those with hearing disabilities.

“We have been sending guests to Indonesia on a regular basis. The package I prepared attracted much attention. I prepared for my clients to stay 22 days in Flores, and I’m convinced that this tour package is very interesting” said Ruud Jansen, travel consultant for a tour operator in the Netherlands.

“The scenery here is spectacular! This is what we need to compose a tour package. Kids and everyone here are always waving and smile joyfully to greet visitors” said James Jeske, tour operator from the U.S.A

Although some local tourist offices were concerned that their regions would only become a one day-transit place, all tour operators convinced them that this will not be the case.

Most important for their clients is that destinations must keep the authenticity of the attractions, find other highlights in their areas, and inform them about this so tourists can stay much longer. “Instead of staying for just one day, tourists can stay for 10 days if it can be filled with various activities and attractions” said Hank at the cool town of Ruteng, West Manggarai.

Besides visiting the habitat of the Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo and Rinca, today the Komodo seas are also already a favourite with world class divers for the huge variety of fish, giant manta rays, turtles, dolphins and whales that can be admired in these waters.

A visit to Komodo is made through the town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores, where new hotels and other tourist facilities have sprung up. There are regular flights daily from Bali to the Komodo Airport on Labuan Bajo.

The island of Flores is wellknown for the spectacular three-colored lakes of Mt. Kelimutu, the spiderweb ricefields at Manggarai, Easter celebrations at Larantuka, the prehistoric “hobbits” caves at Liang Bua, megalithic villages, beautiful woven textiles and a whole lot more.

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Aerowisata Hotels & Resorts certified Eco Hotels

Aerowisata Hotels & Resorts, a chain hotel group spread in a number of locations across Indonesia including Bali, Lombok, Pekanbaru, Bandung and Papua, has been certified “Eco Hotels” by TUV Rheinland from Germany.

Aerowisata, a subsidiary company of Garuda Indonesia, gained recognition for its commitment to enhance aspects in waste management, water treatment, conservation, efficient electricity usage, and better overall environmental development.

The certificate was presented by President Director of TUV Rheinland Indonesia, Muhammad Asana at Hanoman Garden, Sanur Beach Hotel, Bali on Tuesday, 15 November 2011, that was also attended by executive Vice President of Aerowisata Hotels & Resorts, Anton Pratono.

In his speech, Anton stated that the certification is an acknowledgement for Aerowisata hotels reducing negative impacts and preserving the environment, which are part of the Green program conducted by Garuda Indonesia. Furthermore, this achievement is hoped to attract more international tourists, especially from Europe, since Europeans are very concerned with preserving the earth.

TUV Rheinland is a global provider of technical, safety and certification services with as guiding principle the achieving of sustained development of safety and quality in order to meet the challenges arising from the interaction between man, technology and the environment.

“We are proud to announce that Aerowisata Hotels & resorts is the first hotel groups that received the ‘Eco Hotel’ certification from TUV Rheinland”, said Muhaman Asana, President Director of TUV Rheinlad Indonesia”. The Eco Hotel certification is valid for three years, and every three months an evaluation will be conducted” said Asana. If the standard is not met, then the certification will be withdrawn.

Nowadays, an eco-friendly hotel has become the priority for international tourists, especially from Europe. Thus, the certification becomes an important assurance of the ‘eco-friendliness’ of a hotel or accommodation.

“Aerowisata Hotels & Resorts are continuously conducting every effort to implement the environmental commitment through a series of training for the staff and encouraging our guests to support the ‘Eco Hotel’. As a result we have received this certification, which will benefit us in the promotion of our hotels, especially to visitors from Europe” said Anton.

General Manager of Sanur Beach Hotel, Francis Dehnhardt, expressed his gratitude to all the staff and employees for the achievement in gaining the ‘Eco Hotel’ certification. The process in gaining recognition has been on-going since the hotel was first established about 37 years ago. “Even though it took a big investment, the certification has helped us a lot in reducing operational costs and also impacted in a significant increase in occupation” Denhardt stated.

Along with the Sanur Beach Hotel, there are 5 other Aerowisata Hotels that also received the Eco Hotel Certification. These are: the Senggigi Beach Hotel in Lombok, the Grand Preanger Hotel in Bandung, the Labersa Grand Hotel & Convention Center in Pekanbaru, and the Aerotel Biak in Papua.

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Bulukumba shipyard launches another impressive Phinisi Schooner

“This is an important moment “, explained Nazaruddin, Head of the Culture and Tourism Office of Bulukumba ,”since this is the largest phinisi ever built here in the history of Bulukumba, and was ordered from Poland”. Construction on the schooner’s hull took place at Tanjung Bira under master builder, Haji Muslim Baso, from the village of Ara, of Bonto Bahari. “The building of the entire phinisi’s hull took 9 months. At its completion, the boat will be towed to Semarang in Central Java, for finishing and interior fitting.” added Nazarudin.

The schooner, estimated to cost around IDR 4 Billion has a frame measuring 50 meters in length and at its widest part measures almost 10 meters. The finishing process in Semarang will probably cost triple its construction. The local government of Bulukumba through the Office of Culture and Tourism intends to preserve Tanjung Bira, Bulukumba, as the traditional site for the construction of the Phinisi Schooners.

These impressive schooners that can be seen at full sail all around the Indonesian seas have for centuries been made by master craft builders here in the south eastern corner of Sulawesi by the beautiful white beaches of Tanjung Bira. Shipbuilding here is a long tradition that has been handed down through generations. The sturdiness and sailworthiness of the phinisi have long gained worldwide reputation.

“Our biggest threat is that these phinisi builders may move to other provinces to obtain easier access to materials. Therefore, this has today become an issue of national importance that needs to be discussed” said Nazarudin as he showed off the beauty of the Pasir Putih Beach of Tanjung Bira. If the problem persists, then Tanjung Bira will face the threat to be scrapped from the tourism and cultural map of Indonesia altogether”, he said.

The launching ceremony of the Phinisi that was built by 100 of men was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Bulukumba, Samsudin and officials of the Culture and Tourism Office. All workers and builders also joined the traditional ceremony.

From the first shifting of the boat on Tuesday evening November 8th, it will take approximately 3 weeks before the ship finally reaches the water to be towed to Semarang. “The ship’s hull is about 3 meters deep, so I chose this place, since its depth is appropriate” said Baso as he commanded the workers in the shifting of the schooner which can only be moved 15 to 20 meters a day.

kapal bulukumbaFor the people of Tanjung Bira, building this Phinisi Schooner may have meant only a collective project for the year. However, Tanjung Bira’s fame is actually being carried far beyond that for its achievements in the production of world class schooners, while at the same time preserving its proud identity as a creative and persistent society.

Master builder Haji M.Baso has built over 200 schooners and boats of various types and sizes in his lifetime.” This is , however, the largest tourism ship that I have ever built in Bonto Bahari since 1991” Baso explained as he answered some of the questions from the media who covered the launching ceremony.

The schooner is not the only boat being built here. There are other types of boats being constructed by Haji Muslim Baso at the moment.

Near the Phinisi schooner, there was also a smaller boat in construction orderd by a Belgian businessman.There were also 12 other boats and tables ordered from Colombia. Clearly, the skills and knowledge of the local genius of Tanjung Bira are well recognized by the international seafaring community.

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Javanese gear up for New Year rituals

The eve of the first day of Sura, the first month of the Javanese calendar, is a sacred night for members of the nation’s Javanese community.

This was true in Yogyakarta, the center of Javanese culture, where people were seen preparing for New Year rituals on Friday.

Residents of Samas beach in Bantul regency, for instance, were preparing for the Mahesa Sura procession for the Javanese New Year, which falls on Nov. 27 this year.

The procession will include the parading of a buffalo head that will eventually be cast into the Indian Ocean south of Java.

“This is a form of our gratitude for the fortune and blessings that God has given us and to ward off bad luck,” a local elder said.

The practice of casting offerings into the sea (labuhan) is a popular Javanese ritual performed to dispel bad luck. Other beaches popular for labuhan rituals are Parangkusumo and Parangtritis Beaches in Kretek, Bantul.

Meanwhile, Kamijan, a resident of Tegalrejo, Bantul, was seen preparing for an individual cleansing rite, blessing several ancestral heirlooms with flower water and fragrance.

Others conduct personal cleansing rituals by praying or burning incense.

Bambang Legowo, the head of the Bantul Tourism Agency, said tourists would flock to the various traditions ceremonies and cultural performances that would be held to greet the Javanese New Year.

Events on the beaches in the south of Bantul might generate Rp 30 million (US$3,300) in ticket sales alone on the eve of Sura, he said.

“We hope and pray for a high turnout and sunny weather so visitors will not be troubled.”

To secure celebrations along the coast, the Bantul Police have deployed 350 officers to strategic places and congestion-prone areas.

“We will step up safety to prevent accidents due to tourists swimming in the sea,” Taufik M. Faki, a member of the National Search and Rescue Agency’s Parangtritis unit, said.

Residents living on the slopes of Mount Merapi in Kaliurang, Sleman, Yogyakarta, will commemorate Sura Eve by marching in silence with offerings. The same silent march, known as the tapa bisu, will be held around the fortress of the Yogyakarta Palace.

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Retirement Islands for Orangutans

An innovative plan to create man-made islands for sick and injured orangutans in Indonesia is offering hope of a better life for animals who have previously been destined to spend their remaining days in cages.

While much of the fight to save the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan focuses on protecting their natural habitat, for some orangutans it is already too late.

Environmentalists say they are rescuing a growing number of orangutans that are unable to return to the wild because they are too ill or injured, often the result of coming into contact with humans.

Now, Australian zoo keepers, the Australian Orangutan Project and an eco-tourism company are partnering with an orangutan conservation group in Indonesia to raise money to buy land in Sumatra to create four “islands” where sick and injured orangutans could live in an environment more akin to their natural habitat, with staff on hand to care for them.

The plan is to dig moats around the land, which would prevent the orangutans, which cannot swim, from escaping. The animals can live for up to 50 years.

Four orangutans being cared for by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program have already been identified as possible residents of the planned islands, said Jessica McKelson, supervisor of the primates department at Melbourne Zoo and founder of Raw WildLife Encounters, the eco-tourism company involved in the project.

Ms. McKelson said one orangutan who could benefit from the project had been shot 62 times after wandering past a village on the edge of a forest. He was left blind after being shot in both eyes, and cannot return to the wild.

“He’s becoming large and mature and he really needs to get out of the cage,” said Ms. McKelson. Another orangutan the organizers hope to relocate has been diagnosed with the human strain of hepatitis B.

But first the organizers must find suitable land for the orangutans and raise money to lease the land.

Ms. McKelson said they hoped to raise 80,000 Australian dollars ($77,432) to lease about three hectares of land near the city of Medan, in north Sumatra. A clean water supply for the orangutans would be crucial.

There are also plans to establish an education center near the site to help teach locals about how they can live in harmony with orangutans, which is Indonesian for “man of the forest”.

Environmental groups blame palm oil and logging companies for encroaching on the animals’ natural habitat, and Ms. McKelson said villagers were increasingly coming into contact with orangutans as a result of deforestation. She said the animals sometimes approached villagers’ fruit trees, which could lead to conflict.

“We will be able to use this as a key education center to educate locals with the orangutans and also educate them about human-animal contact,” said Ms. McKelson, adding that there were an estimated 6,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.

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Budget carrier to launch ‘unique’ routes in Indonesia

Budget airline Indonesia AirAsia (IAA) says it will open new routes linking several Indonesian tourist destinations to major ASEAN cities to support tourism in the country.

IAA spokeswoman Audrey Progastama Petriny said in Jakarta on Wednesday that the airline would soon link destinations such Mataram in West Nusa Tenggara to major cities in ASEAN such as Singapore, and Bangkok, Thailand.

“New, ‘unique’ routes will be launched very soon because Indonesia and ASEAN are a huge potential market for growth,” she told The Jakarta Post.

She said that 45 percent of the Air Asia Group’s routes were ‘unique’ routes that linked one city to another city that no other airline served.

In Indonesia, the unique routes that IAA has offered for several years include service between Bandung, West Java; and Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Yogyakarta and Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya, East Java, Penang, Malaysia, and Bangkok; and Medan, North Sumatra, and Bangkok.

IAA would open new international and domestic routes in anticipation of the arrival of five new Airbus A320 aircraft in 2012, Audrey said.

The airline currently operates 16 Airbus aircraft.

Audrey added that IAA was not afraid of emerging low-cost carriers such as Citilink, flag airline Garuda Indonesia’s budget division, as IAA was leading the push to connect ASEAN member nations.

“Our flights connect all 10 ASEAN countries and our next step is enhancing route connectivity and flight frequency,” she said.

One potentially successful route for tourism and business was service between Jakarta; Denpasar, Bali; and Phuket, Thailand, she said.

IAA transported 4 million Indonesians to domestic and international destinations as of October and was optimistic that it could meet or exceed a target of 4.5 million passengers by December, Audrey added.

“Looking at current demand, I think we can reach up to 5 million passengers by the end of this year,” she added.

AirAsia now has five hubs in Indonesia: Jakarta, Denpasar, Medan, Bandung and Surabaya.

Based on recent data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), international visitor arrivals to Southeast Asia topped 72.9 million in 2010, up 12.4 percent from 2009.

Audrey said that Indonesia AirAsia would expand its market by promoting ASEAN’s brand to the international market next year, focusing on promoting the “four pillars” of culture, cuisine, eco-tourism and business.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia as of September reached 5.61 million, up 8.26 percent from the same period last year.

The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry is expecting 7.7 million people to visit Indonesia in 2011, up 10 percent from 7 million people in 2010.

Meanwhile, Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, IAA’s parent company, said its net profits slumped by more than half in the third quarter as fuel prices surged, warning that the next four months would be challenging.

AirAsia said in a statement released late Tuesday that its net profits fell 53 percent to 152.3 million Malaysian ringgit (US$47.8 million) from 327.3 million ringgit in the same period last year.

Based on forward booking trends, AirAsia said the outlook for its Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian operations for the 3-month run up to December was positive, warning that the outlook “should be seen in the context of the current high price of oil and aviation fuel.” (nfo)

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Traditional foods have export potential

The government expects to export some US$6 billion in food and beverages this year, an increase of about 6 percent from 2010’s figure.

To increase the value, the government will focus on promoting traditional culinary specialties because they combine the possibilities of obtaining more revenue and creating both jobs and a sense of national identity, a top trade official says.

Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said Sunday that exposing traditional foods to foreign markets would result in thousands of Indonesians being employed within export-oriented traditional culinary industries.

“At the same time, we have a very large captive market, following the success of a growing number of Indonesian restaurants abroad, as well as supermarkets selling Indonesian spices,” he told The Jakarta Post via text message.

Bayu said currently, traditional culinary exports were minimal, especially in comparison to other Asian countries, whose culinary diversity was not as varied as Indonesia’s, such as Japan, Thailand and South Korea, to name a few.

He added that it would be possible to start exporting by displaying traditional cuisine during bilateral and multilateral occasions abroad.

“We have collaborated with the Foreign Ministry as well as several of Indonesia’s embassies abroad,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry’s director general for American and European affairs, Retno L.P. Marsudi, said a focus group discussion was held two weeks ago in Jakarta to find ways to promote traditional foods abroad.

A string of local, well-known chefs, restaurateurs and representatives from trade, industry and tourism and the creative industries attended the discussion.

“Our culinary promotion is not yet well developed. Therefore, we gathered here [in Jakarta] and talked,” Retno said over the phone.

She said that early next year, participants would gather again and draw up a road map with traditional culinary strategies. Among them are food choices, promotion methods and taste standardization.

She said Thai dish tom yam gung had a similar taste across the globe because the Thai government had been involved in standardizing its taste, adding the government would standardize the taste of local foods, such as sate ayam and rendang.

A week ago, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said food would be added to the creative sector, bringing the total number of sub-sectors to 15.

“We chose food because it is closely related to tourism,” she said.

The creative economy contributed 9.25 percent of a total Rp 131.3 trillion (US$14.4 billion) of exports in 2010.

Meanwhile, the amount of imported food and beverages from Malaysia has continued to increase during recent months, inundating the local market, which is already overwhelmed with imported products.

The Indonesian Food and Beverage Association revealed that imports of Malaysian food and beverages accounted for US$48.8 million in the first eight months of this year.

“They made up 24.7 percent of Indonesia’s total food and beverage imports up until October, increasing from 18.5 percent by April,” the association’s secretary-general, Franky Sibarani, said in a written statement.

The association also revealed that imported food from ASEAN countries reached $96.5 million in the same period. (fem/rcf)

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Destinations - Bali in a new light

When it comes to travel, popular imagination can sometimes be as misleading as tourism over-drive. Nothing can be truer than the case of the archipelago of Indonesia which many view as a one-stop destination. In an attempt to dispel the stereotype, the Indonesian Tourism Board invited some of us to explore the idea that there is more to Indonesia than Bali and that, indeed, there is more to Bali than sun-bleached beaches and a hectic night life. Perhaps, it is taking a cue from Thailand — the Big Daddy of tourism in South Asia — which keeps unleashing newer and newer tourist destinations upon an insatiable world. Beach-combers and back-packers flock to lesser-known travel hot-spots in this part of the world along with high-end tourists seeking nirvana in exclusive spas and resorts and rambunctious families on a jolly good outing. Increasingly, the focus of the travel industry is shifting towards inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness, towards affordable luxury rather than en masse shoestring budget travellers. The idea, everywhere, seems to be to promote a place where a good time can be had by people of different age groups and diverse interests.

There being no direct flights from India, we travel via Kuala Lumpur. From Jakarta we head to Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city and capital of the province of West Java. Situated atop volcanic mountains, Bandung caught the eye of the Dutch colonialists for its temperate weather. Tea was brought from China and when that failed to take root, the Assam variety was introduced. Soon it proved to be so profitable and prolific that the city of Bandung was ‘developed' as a resort city for the plantation owners and dubbed the ‘Paris of the East'. The European influence lingers in the art deco architecture, the elongated spires of the Dutch-style cathedral, the canals and the wind-mills atop a popular bakery chain. An entire street devoted to jeans and rows upon rows of ‘ factory outlets' make this a shopping haven for those looking for near-similar clones of popular high-end brands at bargain prices. However, of greater interest to me is the Afro-Asia Avenue, named after the first Afro-Asian Conference held here in 1955 which brought together leaders from 29 countries including the noted Urdu writers Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sajjad Zaheer.

Heady highs

A visit to Bandung includes a short detour to a volcano that last erupted in 1954, Mount Tangkuban Perahu, takes you along winding mountain roads past tea, rubber, banana and coffee plantations to a crater that spews boiling mud and clouds of steam. A vantage point on a small bridge allows you to take pictures of the plume of smoke that hangs low over the crater and sniff the acrid smell of sulphur. At the nearby hot spring, Sari Ater, you can sit in a pool of warm sulphur water along with rambunctious locals enjoying a family outing or a weekend getaway from Jakarta. Roadside shacks sell a concoction of dried fern roots that cure everything from arthritis to cancer to diabetes and a local delicacy made from the rabbits that breed in great abundance on these wooded slopes.

We return to Jakarta for a quick tour of the chief attractions of this bustling capital city prone to the most mind-numbing traffic jams, before flying off to Bali. Home to the majority of Indonesia's Hindu population, the island is synonymous with sun, sand and tourists, especially the Australians who are everywhere, given the strong Australian dollar and the geographical proximity. Once accustomed to the booming Aussie drawl, ubiquitous kangaroos and blue-white-and red buntings set out to woo these visitors from down-under, you will find plenty in Bali to entice you. While the sea-facing night-spot Ku De Ta (possibly a Balinese spelling of coup d'état!) and the Hanging Rock Café are popular hangouts at night, the beaches, especially the ones at Kuta and Nusa Dua draw all the crowds. The first-floor lounge of the Anantara at Seminyak is a great place to watch the sun go down as are the extensive grounds of the golf course at the Pan Pacific Nirvana Resort at Tanah Lot. In fact, you might do well to time your arrival at Tanah Lot so that you arrive at the Pan Pacific and take the short cut to the temple carved onto a rocky outcrop before settling for a sun downer. This fantastic sea temple, among the holiest sites for the island's Hindu population, was built in the 16th century and is dedicated to protecting the island from the wrath of the sea. One of seven sea temples that encircle the coast of Bali like a protective girdle, its guardians are the mythical sea snakes said to inhabit the caves below. The sea pounding at the rocky shore below, the wind tearing at your clothes and jostling crowds posing precipitously close to the cliff's edge make a visit to Tanah Lot a truly ‘hair-raising' experience.

Heart of Bali

While the area near the temples offers a variety of Balinese mementoes, the serious shoppers head for Ubud. A far cry from the boisterous beaches, the town of Ubud in the middle of the island offers a glimpse into the heart of Bali. The road from Kuta takes you past orchards groaning with fruit and fields glimmering with the emerald of paddy. We stop at the village of Celuk to watch master craftsmen at work, chiselling objects of incredible beauty from all kinds of wood — the sturdy mahogany and the flimsy driftwood that washes up on the island's shores. Everywhere, there are signs of painstaking labour and creativity. All along the road, we see samples of the industry and ingenuity of the local people who have festooned their shop fronts and homes with temples, altars and decorations fashioned from flowers, leaves, bamboo and bits of cloth. Girls carrying baskets of flowers walk to village temples and the streets wear a festive look; every day in Bali, we gather, is a special day to worship the gods and the rituals of prayer are celebrated, not merely observed.

Indian tourists are known to visit Ubud to buy container-loads of home decorations, objects d'art and wooden furniture, though few bother to explore this quaint town. The main thoroughfare has cafes, museums, art galleries, gemstone and jewellery boutiques and a warren of shacks selling batik, metal ware and wood bric-a-brac including side tables designed like jungle drums to Buddha figurines and ritual masks. Lunch at any one of the scenic cafes overlooking the dramatic valleys gouged out by the Wos river can be interspersed with a browse through the many interesting nooks and crannies at the Temple of Bubbling Waters (Tirta Empul) and the royal palace followed by high tea at the scenic Ali La, a boutique resort situated in the midst of terraced rice fields. At Tirta Empul, remember to borrow a sash from a desk piled high with scraps of coloured fabric, to tie around the waist as a symbol of respect before venturing near the sacred springs that still bubble near the central courtyard.

Quite apart from shopping for a range of imaginative handicrafts for which Bali is justly renowned, there is the island's cultural life waiting to be explored. The Barong dance, the most popular of Bali's many dance forms, is a spectacular fight between good and evil with many moments of light relief thrown in. Language ceases to be barrier in the episode involving Ketaki and Sahdeva as colour and movement crowd the open-air stage. You sit on stone steps padded with rush matting with a live orchestra occupying one side of the tiny stage, and watch engrossed. Swaying coconut palms provide a fitting backdrop for this vignette culled from the Ramayana. When Barong, the king of the spirits, vanquishes the forces of evil, you rejoice not merely because order and harmony have been restored but because of the seamless manner in which religion and drama have come together.

Rakhshanda Jalil writes on culture, literature and society. She blogs at

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Tourism Islands To Get Rp 210t For Development

Denpasar. The government announced it would allocate Rp 210 trillion ($23.3 billion) toward economic development in eastern Indonesia.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who is also the coordinator of the master plan to accelerate development in the country’s Economic Corridor V (Bali and Nusa Tenggara), said on Sunday in Denpasar that the money would be spent on 136 projects in the area.

The tourism sector, which Mari singled out as a main driver for growth in eastern Indonesia, would receive 28 percent of the investment, she said, mainly through infrastructure projects.

“Investing heavily in infrastructure will allow us to rapidly develop tourism,” Mari said, adding that the government aimed to increase tourist arrivals to 8 million next year from 7.7 million this year.

To ensure it meets the target, the government is looking to attract visitors from countries that have emerged relatively unscathed from the credit crisis including China, India and Australia.

“Apart from Bali, another tourism magnet in the area is East Nusa Tenggara’s Komodo Island,” Mari said.

Komodo National Park’s win in the New7Wonders of Nature global poll could bring an end to widespread poverty in East Nusa Tenggara, said former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who campaigned for Komodo’s bid.

“Growth in tourism in East Nusa Tenggara will lead to increased economic opportunities,” Kalla said at a seminar at the Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta on Sunday. “Komodo is the key to improving the welfare of the people in the province.

“Uniting all Indonesians is easy as long as there is a clear cause, and what better cause than to create prosperity for an impoverished region.”

Abraham Paul Liyanto, the chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara branch of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), agreed that growth in the region’s tourism industry would expand on the back of infrastructure improvements there.

Abraham added that direct international flights to Labuan Bajo, the main city of Flores island and the closest town to Komodo, would mean tourists coming for a visit would not need to stop over in Jakarta, Bali or Surabaya.

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