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New Lake Toba Tourism Strategy: Serious Focus or Empty Talk

By: Marcus Phillips.

The Ministry of Tourism has announced its intention to target Lake Toba to become a world class tourist destination. The question arises as to whether it has a serious long and short term strategy plan to make this happen or they continue to spend a little to save a lot.

For nearly 20 years Lake Toba has remained mostly a ‘forgotten destination’ by world standards, except for a few backpackers and tourists who come every day to Tuktuk. The foreigners who come are impressed by its natural beauty and Batak culture and enjoy its quiet vibe and moderate climate.

Tourism is based on 2 factors: service and promotion. Service includes easy and comfortable transport, not the 4 hour ‘jalan takut’ from Medan. Most tourists want a choice of comfortable accomodation from 2 to 4 star rated, which Tuktuk already has. Some want to pay for 5 star. Tourists want both relaxation and activity.

Ecotourism activities is what Lake Toba should target. Many tourists want to go trekking but Samosir does not promote or properly provide this service. Promotion of Lake Toba has never been done seriously. Ninety nine percent of the world has never heard of Lake Toba. International travel documentary film makers should be paid and invited to come and film for television around the world. Hollywood and Bollywood should be invited to shoot a movie. After that, the world would come.

But if the Ministry of Pariwisata is serious to have a world class tourism area at Lake Toba, they must plan a new area, not build around an old town, on the lake with sandy beaches and only 20 minutes from an airport. This might mean in the area between Silangit and Balige, and in coastal areas of District Ajibata (Village Sirukkungon, Sigapiton, or Suhisuhi) if Sibisa Airport will actually be improved and operated.

Tuktuk could still promote the 1 to 3 star tourism within a local village but everything requires co-operation between local business and an inspired focus from government. (MP)

The writer is a Lake Toba Region Tourism Observer; Editor-at-Large for BatakToday.com

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