As a result, the district government is committed to increasing the number of tourist visits by more than 40 thousand in 2017.
Wakatobi Creative Economy and Tourism Office Chief Nadar noted that as of December 2016, more than 20 thousand foreign and domestic tourists had visited the district.
In light of this significant progress, Nadar revealed the Wakatobi district government had felt encouraged to raise the targeted tourist arrivals to more than 40 thousand people next year.
Several supporting facilities such as an airport passenger terminal, a marina, a pier, hotels, and restaurants, which have been developed in Wakatobi, will contribute to increasing the number of tourist visits in 2017.
In addition, two international companies are currently developing five-star-rated hotels in the district.
Nadar explained that the local government will allocate Rp20 billion from its 2017 regional budget for the development and promotion of the districts tourism sector.
"The Rp20 billion budget will be used to finance the construction of numerous supporting facilities and infrastructure, as well as for promotional activities, both at home and abroad," he remarked.
Both the local and central governments are responsible for the development and promotion of Wakatobis tourism sector, making the increase in tourist arrivals even more likely, according to Nadar.
"Even without the support of the central government, the number of tourist visits to Wakatobi reached 22 thousand people in 2016, and certainly with the support of the central government, the number will be much more, even exceeding 40 thousand in 2017," he stated.
Efforts to start regular flight services connecting major cities in Indonesia to the Wakatobi district will also help increase the number of tourist arrivals, which saw a steady increase after the development of Matahora Airport on Wangi-Wangi Island.
When construction of the airport began in 2009, the number of tourist arrivals was only some three thousand per year, but in 2015, it reached 17 thousand, and in 2016, it grew to more than 20 thousand, following the completion of the Matahora Airport passenger terminal, which was inaugurated by the tourism and transportation minister in May.
Matahora Airport has a two-thousand-meter-long runway and is expected to boost the nations tourism industry, especially in Wakatobi District.
Plans are also afoot to extend the runway to 2.5 thousand meters to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft and to expand the apron area to facilitate the parking of aircraft.
The airport terminal was built to international standards, providing comfortable arrival and departure lounges for passengers.
The district government will continue to focus on developing tourism because of its strong potential for improving the welfare of the locals and the country as a whole.
Currently, the only airlines serving routes to Wakatobi are Wings Air and Avia Star. Wings Air has a daily flight to Matahora Airport, while Avia Star, with a capacity of 12 passengers, serves the airport once a week.
For this reason, Tourism Minister Arif Yahya has urged the government to start regular flights on the Jakarta-Wakatobi and Jakarta-Denpasar-Wakatobi routes as soon as possible now that the district has been named one of the countrys 10 major destinations and is eligible for promotional and developmental support funding.
Further, he stressed that the central and local governments as well as the local community should support Wakatobis position as a significant tourist destination.
In recent years, Wakatobis popularity as a world-class diving destination, especially among professional divers, has increased, resulting in even stronger demand for a direct air link between Jakarta and Bali.
Wakatobi is known for having the highest number of reefs and fish species in the world and is a protected marine national park.
The islands in Wakatobi District are also famous for forming the largest barrier reef in Indonesia, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The national park is believed to have 942 species of large and small fish and 750 species of coral. By comparison, a total of 850 coral species are found across the world.
With its fringing reefs, atolls, and barrier reefs, as well as more than 50 scenic dive sites that are easily accessible from the major islands, it is the playground of dolphins, turtles, and even whales.
The island group comprises 143 large and small islands, with only seven of them inhabited, hosting a total population of nearly 100 thousand.
Hoga Island in the district has popular diving facilities, inviting tourists from around the world to explore the natural underwater beauty of the coral reefs and other marine life around the island.
"Here, at Wakatobi, the beauty of our marine life is waiting to be discovered and explored by the Sail Wakatobi-Belitung participants," noted Wakatobi District Head Hugua.
The Wakatobi Diving Resort, with its own beach and a reef only 20 meters away, offers more opportunities to enjoy viewing the colorful marine diversity in these waters.
It is surrounded by steep drop-offs, walls, and slopes, as well as ridges, caverns, caves, and sea-mounts.
In addition, the diving resort offers luxury accommodation to tourist divers and guests with its bungalows, garden bungalows, beach bungalows, and cliff villas.(*)