The target is to earn an average of US$1 billion annually from foreign tourists."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Lake Toba located in North Sumatra Province is not just an ordinary lake but is the largest volcanic lake on Earth.

The lake has been formed by a steep-walled caldera produced during the Toba volcanos eruption, the largest known volcanic eruption on the planet in the past two million years.

The powerful eruption, an extremely rare event, is called a supervolcanic eruption.

When viewed from space, the Toba caldera is one of the most striking volcanic craters on Earth, measuring 100 x 30 kilometers.

The ancient lakes uniqueness, beautiful natural scenery, and the rich coastal culture of North Sumatras people living around Lake Toba have attracted several domestic and foreign tourists.

To boost the tourism industry in North Sumatra Province, the government has designated Lake Toba as a world-class tourist destination aimed at improving the livelihood of the local community.

"Lake Toba is to be transformed into a tourism destination of international standard," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung stated after a limited cabinet meeting on the Development Plan of Lake Tobas Destination and the Tourism Authority Agency for Lake Toba in Jakarta on February 2, 2016.

To this end, the government is preparing the legal documents to establish a Lake Toba tourism authority, he noted after a meeting presided over by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).

"Preparations are underway to make Lake Toba the new Bali of Indonesia. We are confident of accomplishing this, and Lake Toba will be developed into a nature and geopark tourism destination," he affirmed.

In the meeting, President Jokowi emphasized the need to develop a branding strategy to market Lake Toba as one of the ten priority tourist destinations to be optimally developed this year.

"I have stressed that a branding strategy for tourism related to Lake Toba should be prepared," President Jokowi remarked.

The nine other priority tourist destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung, Tanjung Lesung in Banten, Thousand Islands in Jakarta, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mount Bromo in East Java, Mandalika in South Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, and Morotai in North Maluku.

The president has expressed optimism that by developing the tourism destinations, the local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would also be able to boost their productivity and absorb more manpower.

"We need a quick breakthrough in terms of regulation and work in other areas to deliver results at the earliest," he emphasized.

All tourism services and facilities in the lake area must be upgraded to meet international standards, he stated.

"Art and cultural attractions should be on display, in a well-choreographed manner, and should be attractively designed," he remarked.

In particular, the president has called to boost connectivity and accessibility to Lake Toba by improving the airport and road infrastructure.

In fact, acting governor of North Sumatra Tengku Erry Nuradi has put forth a proposal to construct a toll road to Lake Toba and to implement environmental improvement measures in the lake area.

"I understand that two or three weeks ago, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, the coordinating minister for human and cultural development, and the tourism minister had visited Lake Toba. We hope there will be a follow-up on the ground," Jokowi affirmed.

The head of state hoped that the visit would be followed up by a concrete action plan to be rolled out in the area, including organizing marketing activities, implementing international service standards, and holding cultural and art performances.

On January 9, five ministers held a meeting to discuss a plan to set up a Lake Toba Tourism Authority to improve the management of tourism in the Lake Toba area.

The meeting held at the Del Institute of Technology in Laguboti, Toba Samosir, was led by Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Resources Rizal Ramli.

The four other ministers attending the meeting were Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimulyono, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan, and Minister of Forestry and Environment Siti Nurbaya.

Rizal expressed full commitment to setting up the agency to ensure better coordination in the management of Lake Toba, so that it would become the "Monaco of Asia" or an international-standard tourism destination and attract more foreign tourists.

The minister later outlined several points concerning the development of Lake Toba.

The lake area needs to be cleaned up, he stated, adding that the government would help small-scale fishermen by providing the feeding box technology, while the big fishermen will be urged to not damage the environment.

The inhabitants of seven districts located around Lake Toba must be able to reap the benefits once Lake Toba is developed into a world-class tourism destination.

To support the plan, various facilities will be developed, and every district will be guided to come up with specialized products to be supplied to meet the needs of tourists.

In the meantime, Tourism Minister Yahya noted that Lake Toba had been designated as an international destination that will be managed in an integrated manner by a special authority.

"The target is to earn an average of US$1 billion annually from foreign tourists. The investment at the initial stage for Lake Toba will be Rp20 trillion, of which Rp10 trillion will come from the government, and the rest will be sourced from the private sector," he revealed.

The government will expedite the issuance of a presidential regulation for the development of a zone to be managed under a single roof, he explained.

Panjaitan has hailed the initiative to develop the Lake Toba tourism destination, adding that the indigenous Batak community had been awaiting this for tens of years.

"I have also reported it to President Jokowi, and he has welcomed it. He said that it was part of the most important programs of the government," Luhut, who hails from the Batak community, noted.

Lake Tobas tourism industry is expected to contribute Rp30 trillion by 2019.

North Sumatras authorities have been urged to organize international events, such as the "Tour de Toba" cycling race to attract tourists.

The local government hopes that the Toba Caldera Geopark would be inscribed on the UNESCOs World Heritage List in 2017.

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2016