Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Known as "The Land of Smiling People", rich in culture, culinary delights, and beautiful landscapes, North Sulawesi, its provincial capital of Manado in particular, is poised to host an ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF-2012).

To most of the would-be participants of ATF-2012, Manado is probably best known as a stopping-off point for spectacular diving and snorkeling at the well-known Bunaken Marine Park.

They would certainly love every moment of their stay in Manado because North Sulawesi as one of the newest developing destinations in Asia, offers a wide range of opportunities or spots for recreational activities.

The activities range from world-class diving and snorkeling, to volcano trekking, white water rafting and a variety of historic & cultural attractions to keep people of all ages pleasantly occupied.

No wonder North Sulawesi Culture and Tourism Office Chief Haefrey Sendoh said in Manado on Thursday that Manado was ready to host the ASEAN Tourism Forum, themed "ASEAN Tourism for Global Community of Nations", which will be staged on January 8 - 15, 2012.

"The provincial government is ready to host the international meeting and make it a success," Sendoh said.

He said preparations to host the event were discussed at a technical meeting with the Culture and Tourism Ministry`s secretary general and director general on October 14, 2011 at the Grand Kawanua Hotel in Manado.

According to Sendoh, the supporting facilities and infrastructure such as accommodations for the ASEAN Tourism Forum participants at star-rated hotels, the venues for the forum and a travel exhibition had already been selected.

He said other preparations being made by the local committee concerned local transportation facilities while the delegates would come and go by Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, and Silk Air which had opened a route between Manado to Singapore.

For local transportation, Sendoh said, the committee would operate 20 trans Kawanua buses for the forum participants and 10f Camry sedan cars for ministerial-level officials.

"Any way, the North Sulawesi provincial government is ready to host the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January 2012 and make it a success," Sendoh said.

The ASEAN Tourism Forum is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region as one tourist destination.

This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries.

The ATF 2012 in Manado will mark the 31st anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981.

Indonesia will host ATF 2012 and is all geared up to welcome over 1,600 delegates which includes about 400 international buyers and 100 international media.

Sendoh said he was optimistic about the success of the forum because over the past few years Manado had also hosted a number of international events in commendable ways such as the

Coral Triangle Initiative Summit, Sail Bunaken 2009, the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils meeting, and the World Ocean Conference.

Indonesia`s leadership in global marine and fisheries initiatives is reflected in its hosting of the World Ocean Conference 2009 in Manado, which produced Manado Ocean Declaration by virtue of which the participating governments committed themselves to achieving healthy oceans, coasts, and islands.

The World Ocean Conference (WOC) had put oceans center stage in world attention and raised awareness of the importance of oceans in climate change.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed support for the outcome of the WOC, saying it could help focus the world attention on the link between oceans and climate change, and advance global efforts to find science based solutions to the problems.

In his opening speech for the WOC, president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged the world to ensure ocean-sensitive policies were incorporated into the new regime so that humankind approach to the challenge of climate change would be comprehensive and holistic.

Moreover, Indonesia in 2009 also convened the Coral Triangle Initiative Summit in Manado, attended by 21 other countries.

Meanwhile, North Sulawesi head of marketing department of tourism and culture Aneke Rondonuwu said the local Culture and Tourism Department should embrace print and electronic media to publicize and familiarize the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2012.

"But the most important thing for the ATF 2012 is that all parties including the community of North Sulawesi have to create conducive security and safety for the participants of the forum.

Former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, now energy and mineral resources ministers, has said in a statement that ATF 2012 would be great platform for tourism cooperation among the ASEAN countries to facilitate economic development and environmental conservation.

"We are also happy to have the opportunity to share magnificent Manado with all our distinguished guests. Manado is famous as a diver`s paradise, but also offers wonderful hospitality infrastructure, diverse, and stunning landscapes," Wacik said.

He said tourism has always been a focal point of the Indonesian economy and therefore constant efforts were made to provide a destination that was a blend of natural beauty, cultural riches and modern facilities that were at par with any destination in the world.

"Our guests` safety and enjoyment during ATF-2012 is of prime importance. Our special focus in Eco Tourism in particular has been an effective tool for conservation and protection of natural resources while also leading to inclusive development of local communities," he said.

Reporter: by Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2011