News focus - Sabang`s underwater marine charm attracts divers by Otniel Tamindael

News focus - Sabang`s underwater marine charm attracts divers    by Otniel Tamindael

Sabang port in Aceh Province. (ANTARA /Ampelsa)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia`s westernmost city of Sabang in Aceh Province has at least 20 diving spots, with underwater charm, that have been explored by thousands of divers from various countries.

The unspoiled natural beauty, with the calming sea ambience, is the key attraction of the city of Sabang at the westernmost point of Indonesia.

The Sabang municipality covers the five islands of Weh, Rubiah, Klah, Seulako, and Rondo, which are some 18 miles from the capital city of Aceh Province, Banda Aceh.

While visiting superior attractions in Sabang, both local and foreign tourists engage in activities, such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the waters of Weh and Rubiah islands.

Hence, the Sabang municipal government is making every effort to promote its underwater marine charm through the Sabang International Free-diving Championship 2018 (SIFC 2018).

Mayor of Sabang Nazaruddin remarked on Friday that some 40 divers from 21 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa have confirmed their participation in this free diving without equipment.

According to Nazaruddin, the participants came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Macau, and South Korea.

Divers from the Netherlands, the Philippines, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Hungary, Taiwan, Ukraine, Britain, the United States, and South Africa will also participate.

Nazaruddin explained that the free diving participants will compete in three disciplines: constant weight, free immersion, and constant weight without fins.

This event of free diving without aids is being held for the second time in 2018 by the Sabang city government along with the Aceh provincial government and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia.

The Central Government, through the Ministry of Tourism, has since 2012 designated Indonesia`s westernmost outer islands in Sabang as a National Tourism Strategic Area.

Since Sabang`s underwater beauty has been proven to have global resonance, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya had last year named the city as the host of Sail Indonesia with the title "Sail Sabang 2017."

The international maritime event of Sail Sabang offered a positive momentum that was utilized by the Governments of Sabang City and Aceh Province to promote various economic potentials, particularly in the tourism and investment sectors.

Several guests from various countries visited the city during the Sail Sabang event, held from November 28 to December 5, 2017, thereby making the event a good opportunity to promote Aceh.

Hence, Fadhlullah, a member of the House of Representatives` Commission VI, at the time encouraged the Government of Aceh Province to take advantage of the momentum offered by the event to conduct tourism promotion, in particular, and to also increase investment.

Through the event, the Aceh government promoted tourism and investment and cooperated with various parties to drive economic growth and boost the availability of jobs for people in the westernmost province.

In addition, the government has attempted to devise a concrete concept of various economic potentials aimed at luring investors to invest in the province.

Guests from various countries were present at the Sail Sabang event last year, and it offered a golden opportunity that was utilized by the local government, as a huge expenditure was not borne in going around the world to promote Aceh, especially the city of Sabang, that has marine tourism potential no less interesting than that in other regions.

In connection with the tourism industry in Aceh, Sabang has become a barometer, but the city`s tourism potential is yet to be managed optimally.

Hence, Sail Sabang was expected to encourage growth in the tourism industry in Sabang, which comprises several scenic islands, including Weh.

The sail event was part of the efforts to develop Sabang as a maritime tourism destination, as the government has set a medium-term plan for 2019 to develop Sabang.

Foreign tourist arrivals in Sabang had last year reached some 12 thousand, and by 2019, the number of foreign tourists is expected to increase three folds to reach some 30 thousand.

Thus, the local government needs to improve accessibility and human resources to serve as guides and diving instructors.

The Sabang city government will continue to promote the tourism industry, with the hope of boosting the welfare of the local communities.

It continues to make improvements and rectify any shortcomings in stages for the convenience of the tourists, as tourism is the mainstay product of Weh Island, whose landscapes and forests are scenic.

In September 2016, Aceh Province had won three awards in the categories of Muslim-Friendly Airport given to the Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport in Banda Aceh as well as the best Muslim-friendly cultural destination and best tourist attraction for the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque.

Since then, the Aceh provincial government continues to develop its halal tourism and to seek to improve its tourism industry to meet its 3As of Amenity, Accessibility, and Attraction.

The decision to accelerate developmental programs of halal tourism is in line with the potential market of the industry to attract tourists from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, which also have a Muslim population.

Hence, the development of halal tourism in Sabang, Aceh Province, is supported by Indonesian Maritime Pilots Association (Inampa) President Parsoroan Herman Harinanja to improve the economy of people in the region.