Jakarta (ANTARA) - North Sulawesi, with a population of 2.4 million and located on the northern Sulawesi Island, or formerly known as Celebes, is looking forward to attracting more foreign tourists to visit the province. They are offering a variety of natural panoramas, with beaches, hills, volcanic mountains, and scenic plateaus.

The scenic and biodiverse Bunaken Marine National Park, which is some 10 kilometers from the provincial capital of Manado is one of the most popular tourist destinations. The park has been inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage List.

Foreign tourist visits during the January-May 2019 period has reached 55,144, or a 9.67 percent rise than 50,284 travelers during the corresponding time frame in 2018, according to data of the Manado Immigration office. Of the total tourists, most came from China, reaching 86 percent, followed by two percent each from Singapore and Germany, and 1.3 percent from the United States.

North Sulawesi has been named as the Rising Star of Indonesia's tourism sector for its ability to boost its growth to 600 percent in the last four years. The number of foreign tourists visiting North Sulawesi, especially Manado and Bitung, had reached 20 thousand in 2015, rising twofold to 40 thousand in 2016, 80 thousand in 2017, and 120 thousand in 2018.

Within a four year span, in total, foreign tourist visits to the province have jumped sixfold. Similarly, the number of domestic tourists visiting the region has reached two million in 2016, with the figure continuing to increase to four million in the next year.

The North Sulawesi provincial government has made steady efforts to develop the tourism sector viewed as having the potential to boost the region's economic growth by applying the 3A strategy of attractions, accessibility, and amenities, according to North Sulawesi Provincial Secretary Edwin Silangen.

Silangen highlighted that attractions covered revamping natural, artificial, and cultural attractions, while accessibility encompassed boosting air connectivity, road quality, and intermodal access to tourist destinations, and amenities included the construction of public and tourism facilities.

The tourism industry has become a pillar of the province's economy, as it has contributed significantly to supporting the local economic growth. Hence, the government will work on improving North Sulawesi's infrastructure, comprising facilities at its airport, as part of the efforts to increase foreign tourist visits.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) was on a working visit to North Sulawesi on July 4 and 5, 2019, to take a close look at the region's infrastructure to support the province's tourism industry.

He was in North Sulawesi to address an obstacle facing a development plan of Tanjung Pulisan Tourism Special Economic Zone (KEK) in Likupang, and check the construction of Bitung KEK, Jokowi said.

The obstacle had been identified but it could not be solved in Jakarta nor in North Sulawesi alone, as it would take both sides to solve it, Jokowi said.

The Tanjung Pulisan-Likupang KEK will be developed in an area measuring 396 hectares comprising both private and government lands. The government is determined to solve the land acquisition problem in order to attract investors, he remarked.

North Sulawesi needs many more hotels as travel agents and airways have informed that many tourists would come, pending the province's readiness, Jokowi said.

The government would help construct roads and prepare land spatial to support the KEK development, he stated and added that ongoing construction of the toll road in the province is expected to be completed in October 2019.

North Sulawesi should have four-star rated tourism facilities for the convenience of tourists, he also instructed.

In the meantime, North Sulawesi is promoting its tourism with three major events, notably the Bunaken Festival, the Tomohon Flower Festival, and the Lembeh strait Festival, which are on the agenda of “100 Wonderful of Event 2019”. These events will present the best of North Sulawesi with regional art products such as tourist attractions, sports, fashion and food, among others.

North Sulawesi will hold the Bunaken Festival in Manado on July 17 to 20, 2019, to entice tourists to visit the province that shares its maritime border with the Philippines. A food festival, live traditional music and dance performances aboard the Bunaken Sail trip, fishing contest, coast clean-up, underwater photography competition, and triathlon will be featured.

The Indonesian government had held the international maritime event of Sail Bunaken in 2009 as part of the Sail Indonesia series. Bunaken is an island spanning 8.08 square kilometers in the Bay of Manado, situated in the north of the island of Sulawesi.

North Sulawesi is known for its Bunaken National Marine Park covering an area of 75,265 hectares. The park is located near the center of the Coral Triangle, thereby offering a habitat for 390 species of coral as well as numerous fish, reptilian, and marine mammalian varieties.

Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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