Tangkahan village near Mount Leuser in North Sumatra and Pemuteran village in Bali are two of many communities in Indonesia that offer unique ecotourism attractions.
They can set an example for other villages across the country to develop sustainable tourism as envisaged by the government during a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting recently.
Tourists could enjoy ecotourism activities in Tangkahan such as jungle trekking and elephant riding, said Valerina Daniel, the head of the Tourism Ministry’s sustainable tourism acceleration team.
“In this village, people who used to be illegal loggers are now part of developing the tourism village by offering packages to tourists, which helps to preserve the forests,” she said in Jakarta recently.
Tourists visiting Pemuteran, which is known as a fishing village where residents are active in marine conservation, can go diving and snorkelling while participating in activities like coral conservation and feeding turtles.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said after the UNWTO meeting that the ministry wanted to create 2,000 tourism villages by the end of this year, an increase from the 1,734 created last year.
The program, managed in conjunction with the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry, is part of the government’s commitment to accelerate sustainable tourism.
According to UNWTO guidelines released in 2005, sustainable tourism should take full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impact while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, environment and host community.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Regulation No. 14/2016 stipulates that sustainable tourism should empower local communities, preserve the culture and conserve the environment.
Valerina said the development of tourism villages would be focused around the 10 priority destinations, or 10 New Balis, adding that the development was a sustainable tourism model that suited Indonesia, which has 75,000 villages across the archipelago.
“There are many villages in Indonesia, and a village is the smallest instrument where we can directly empower the community by developing its potential while preserving its culture and environment based on the sustainable tourism principle,” she said.
As part of its target, Arief said 10,000 environment-friendly village homestays would be made available by the end of the year.
He added that the development of the homestays and villages could be funded by state-owned enterprises’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.
Another financing option would be using low-interest rate loans from banks with long-term maturity so that local players can thrive, Arief said.
He added that the government would also establish more Sustainable Tourism Observatories (STOs) in seven locations, adding to the five existing STOs so far. The STOs monitor research and give recommendations to the local government on how to develop sustainable tourism.
The sustainable tourism program was a positive move for Indonesia, although it had yet to become the umbrella policy for general tourism development in the country, said Muhammad Baiquni, a tourism expert at Gadjah Mada University’s Center of Tourism Studies.
“The sustainable tourism concept could be a good balancer for Indonesia’s tourism, which still tends to be quantity oriented instead of quality oriented,” added Baiquni.
He, however, reminded the government to make sure that village tourism had a positive impact on society, culture and the environment, as well as putting local communities first so that sustainable tourism could be achieved.
“Are the villagers benefitting and sovereign on their land? Does tourism in the villages make their environment and socioeconomic situation better? All of these must be assessed.”
Baiquni suggested that the government should focus on creating tourism villages that were of high standards and sustainable, rather than setting a specific target for homestays and villages.