As the province is rich in culture, arts, biodiversity, nature scenery, which are asset for tourism, the Aceh administration has decided to designate halal tourism as one of its priority products.
"Halal tourism has developed fast in the world. Hence, Aceh must take advantage of halal tourism. Hence, halal tourism should become Aceh`s priority product," Jamaluddin, head of the Aceh tourism and culture office, stated in Banda Aceh, recently.
Since 2014, there has been a boom in the world`s halal tourism market. Of the world`s total 6.8 billion population, at least 1.6 billion are Muslim, and 60 percent of them are under 30 years old. The Muslim travel market accounted for more than $142 billion in 2014.
It is projected that the number of Muslim travelers will reach some 180 million by 2020 and will constitute 11.4 percent of the market, with an expenditure projected to be $212 billion.
Recovering from the 2004 tsunami devastation, Aceh has approximately 803 objects of tourist interest and 774 cultural sites scattered across the province.
To this end, Aceh organized a training course for human resources supporting halal tourism. Tens of members of the Aceh Tourism Stakeholders` Association (ASPPI) participated in the course.
Halal tourism respects Islamic culture and Islamic legal values, including those concerning certified halal food.
"Even without certification, food products in Aceh are, in fact, guaranteed to be halal. However, certificates are also obtained to convince tourists," he noted.
He called on tourism stakeholders in Aceh to obtain certificates for their products, including food, hospitality, and other services, in order to support Aceh`s halal tourism industry.
Halal tourism is expected to help the Aceh government to meet its target of attracting at least three million domestic tourists during 2019.
"Our target is to receive some three million domestic tourists in Aceh this year," Jamaluddin stated.
Aceh is optimistic of receiving 150 thousand foreign tourists.0
The number of both domestic and foreign tourist arrivals in Aceh has increased since 2014 and has brought positive impacts on the economy of the Aceh people, he added.
In 2014, the number of tourist arrivals in Aceh reached 1.47 million, comprising 1.42 domestic tourists and 50,722 foreigners.
In 2015, the number increased to 1.77 million consisting of 1.717 million domestic tourists and 54,588 foreigners.
During 2016, a total of 2.23 million people visited Aceh, comprising 2.15 million domestic tourists and and 76,452 foreign travelers.
The number of tourists visiting the province further increased to 2.36 million in 2017, consisting of 2.28 million Indonesians and 78,980 foreign tourists.
Last year, as many as 2.498 million tourists, comprising 2.391 million Indonesians and 106,281 foreigners visited Aceh.
"We have intensified efforts to attract more tourists by stepping up promotion activities and organizing other tourism events featuring the nature scenery and various culture and arts of Aceh," Jamaluddin revealed.
Aceh has Leuser National Park, which is the last natural place on Earth and home to four mega fauna species of Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii), Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris), and Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus).
The western and eastern areas of Aceh Province are currently estimated to have a population of 800 wild Sumatran elephants.
"The number is forecast to increase around 10 percent as compared to that of last year," Head of the Lhokseumawe Natural Resources Conservation Agency Dedi Irvansyah said recently.
Leuser is also a habitat for most fauna, ranging from mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians to fish and invertebrates. It is a region having the longest list of birds in the world, up to 380 species, with 350 of them found in this park, which is also home to owa (Hylobates lar) and kedih (Presbytis thomasi).
The Mount Leuser National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and inscribed on the World Heritage List of the United National Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2004.
Besides, Aceh also has Weh Island, which is very exotic and romantic, as it is surrounded by a number of small islets. Besides, its strategic location, Weh Island, located between the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait, is easily accessible by both domestic and foreign tourists.
Sabang coastal town, located on Weh Island, is known for its beautiful marine panorama. Sabang has become a favorite place for marine tourism lovers for performing various activities, such as diving, snorkeling, fishing, sun-bathing, and visiting interesting spots.
Vice President M Jusuf Kalla had several years ago reminded inhabitants of Weh Island that friendliness and good services remain keys to lure tourists.