Lake Toba has been designated by the central government as a priority tourist destination, along with nine other tourist attractions, or popularly called as "10 New Bali."Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The North Sumatran provincial government has set an ambitious target of attracting at least one million foreign tourists to visit Lake Toba by 2019.
The figure is nearly four folds higher that the number of tourists visiting Lake Toba in 2016, which was only 240 thousand. Until September this year, some 197 thousand tourists had visited the area.
The target of tourist arrivals this year is set at 300 thousand, and next year it is 500 thousand.
The target might be achievable, as Lake Toba is not just an ordinary water body but is the largest volcanic lake on Earth.
Lake Toba and Samosir Island, which is located in the middle of the huge lake, offer a complete tourism package encompassing beautiful scenery, unique Batak culture and traditions, and intriguing history.
The ancient lake was formed by a steep-walled caldera produced during the Toba volcano`s 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 kilometers (km) in length and 30 km in width.
The local government hopes that the Toba Caldera Geopark would be inscribed on the UNESCO`s World Heritage List in 2017.
Moreover, Lake Toba has been designated by the central government as a priority tourist destination, along with nine other tourist attractions, or popularly called as "10 New Bali."
To transform Lake Toba into a world-class resort destination, the government is currently building various facilities and infrastructure that is expected to significantly improve connectivity and accessibility to Lake Toba and the surrounding areas.
It is estimated that funds worth at least Rp21 trillion will be needed to carry out development in the area. Domestic and foreign investors have been invited to participate in the development of Lake Toba, as the government could not afford it alone.
The Executive Agency of Lake Toba Authority (BPODT) has revealed that 40 potential investors, particularly from China and Singapore, are interested in developing Lake Toba`s tourism area.
They were interested in building hotels, resorts, and infrastructure as well as operating tourist boats, Faisal, the finance and general affairs director of BPODT, stated recently.
The potential investors also include local businessmen, he said, adding that the potential investors had visited the Lake Toba tourism area recently.
Chinese investors are serious in building resorts, a Medan-Pematangsiantar-Parapat-route railway and a cable car, he added.
The agency has offered three locations for investment in development of integrated hotels and resorts, notably in Sibisa covering 602 hectares, Humbang Hasundutan measuring one thousand hectares and expected to become a flower park, and in North Tapanuli covering 247 hectares.
He mentioned that Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), a hotel chain from Singapore, is interested in constructing a five-star hotel in Toba Somasir.
The government is also offering a development of a cable car connecting Parapat and Samosir, or from Parapat to Balige and Silangit.
"The best view of Lake Toba is seen from above," he said.
Scoot, Singapore`s airways, plans to open Singapore-Silangit route, while Firefly airways from Malaysia is interested in serving Penang-Silangi route, while Airasia Malaysia will open Kuala Lumpur-Silangit.
Patra Jasa, a subsidiary of Indonesia`s oil and gas company PT Pertamina, has planned to operate tourist boats.
As for the central government`s part, some Rp800 billion has been allocated for infrastructure development for a three-year period until 2019.
The Public Works and Public Housing Ministry will widen the 145-kilometer (km)-long Samosir ring road from three meters to 14 meters, according to Paul Ames Halomoan, head of the National Road Development Center of the ministry.
Besides this, Lake Toba`s outer ring road, stretching 366 km long, will also be widened from 4.5 meters to seven meters.
Several new roads will also be built in the Sibisa airport area and Humbang Hasundutan flower garden area.
Currently, a 200-km-long toll road connecting Tebing Tinggi-Pematang Siantar-Parapat-Sibolga is also being constructed.
Earlier Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said his ministry would build adequate parking areas and restaurants for traditional culinary.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that Lake Toba and three other major tourist destinations ? Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Labuhan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, have been intensively promoted in 47 countries.
The Toba development is expected to help improve the living conditions of the local population.
Minister Yahya is hopeful an average of US$1 billion annually to be earned from foreign tourists visiting Lake Toba. Lake Toba`s tourism industry is expected to contribute Rp30 trillion by 2019.