Aceh tourism objects are no less interesting than those of other cities in Indonesia. Despite the heartbreaking history of the tsunami in late 2004, the natural disaster has even added to the attraction of visitors to get closer to nature and the city of Aceh.
Famous for its natural beauty and beaches, Aceh is flanked by both Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits. The sensational beauty often attracts tourists to visit the place again. There are not only beaches but also many other places that are also interesting to visit and admire.
The government continues to improve facilities and infrastructure in all tourist areas in an effort to make the guests comfortable. There are hundreds of tourism destinations in Aceh province, consisting of 426 natural tourism sites, 268 cultural tourism areas, and 114 special interest tourism places.
Among the interesting tourism destination is Sabang. Visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive in Sabang and encounter an amazing variety of sea creatures, from the colorful dory fish and the playful dolphin to the majestic whale shark. Sabang can be the icon of Aceh tourism.
Sabang is a city located on Weh Island and is the gateway to the western tip of Indonesia. The Weh Island or Pulau Weh itself is the main and largest island that is separated from the mainland of Aceh by the Bengal Strait.
Besides directly bordering three countries, namely Malaysia, Thailand, and India, Sabang is also an area that is very unique to Indonesia.
Therefore, Sabang can serve as the tourism icon of Aceh. Yet it needs hard work to promote it. According to Mayor of Sabang City, Nazaruddin, a strong commitment from all elements of society is needed to develop the regional tourism sector.
"In addition to commitment, I also hope that there is a synergy between the community, business and government enabling the growth and advancement of Sabang tourism sector in the future," he stated in Sabang on Saturday (Oct 27).
Sabang on Pulau Weh, which is about 14 nautical miles from the coast of Banda Aceh City, is one of the leading distributor regions to national tourism, whose potential includes, among others, the natural underwater panorama with coral reefs and various rare fish species.
The mayor explained that his government was determined to continue building various tourism support facilities, and if the service sector was managed properly, it could increase tourist visits, including foreign tourists.
To increase domestic and international tourist visits, his party continues to promote the beauty of Sabang City`s tourism objects, Nazaruddin added.
"If tourist visits increase, people`s income will surely increase, and we hope that all media will contribute to promoting the potential of marine tourism," he explained.
Sabang also has a port of free trade which has the potential to be built as an attractive tourism destination.
Head of the Sabang Port Free Trade Agency (BPKS), Sayid Fadhil, has stated that his agency prioritized the tourism sector in the development of the Sabang port and free trade area.
"We will prioritize the development of the tourism sector in the Sabang-free trade area and try to make it a world destination, besides other sectors," Fadhil remarked in Banda Aceh on Sunday (Oct 28).
So far, Sabang is a major tourist destination in Aceh Province. It not only has marine tourism but also historical tourism. Many Dutch and Japanese relics are found in Sabang.
In addition to its breathtaking marine life, Sabang also has an underwater volcano, offering visitors a chance to experience a unique dive. Iboih Beach and the small Rubiah Island, located 100 meters from it, are Sabang`s most popular tourist destination. It is also a nature conservation area.
Furthermore, it also has an interesting monument located on the western tip of Sabang, 29 kilometers away from the city center, marking the westernmost point of Indonesia`s land. Leaving Sabang without visiting this monument is similar to leaving Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower.
Today, Sabang is also a stopover place for cruise ships that could bring thousands of tourists. A number of cruise ships regularly dock at the BPKS Port, Fadhil explained.
"The tourists who come with the cruise ships are able to provide economic impact to the people of Sabang," Fadhil elaborated. In order to support the development of tourism at the free trade area, BPKS is currently revitalizing Balohan Port. The port is the main entrance of tourists to Weh Island, apart from Sabang Bay.
"We have used more than half of the BPKS budget in 2018 for the revitalization of Balohan Port. This year`s BPKS budget has reached Rp 221 billion," he noted.
In addition to tourism, he continued, it will also make Sabang free trade area as an international port service center and trade industry in Southeast Asia.
"The mainstay sector will be our main work so that the presence of the Sabang port of free trade region and making Sabang as a world tourism destination can truly be felt by the people of Aceh," Fadhil pointed out.