Indonesia readies US$275mil to build infrastructure for ‘five new Balis’

Map shows access routes to one of Indonesia's five priority tourist destinations: Likupang in North Sulawesi. - JP

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN): The government plans to spend Rp 4.01 trillion (US$275.15 million) this year on 108 basic infrastructure projects in five prioritised tourist destinations to spur visits.

The Public Works and Housing (PUPR) Ministry reported Wednesday (April 7) the projects were related to roads, raw and clean water supply, waste management, sanitation, residential improvements and more.

The destinations, referred to as the “five new Balis”, are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Likupang in North Sulawesi.

“For tourism, we first need to improve the infrastructure, then the amenities and events as well as [promotion], ” PUPR Minister Basuki Hadimuljono was quoted in a news release as saying on Wednesday.

“If those are not ready, tourists will come once and will not return. We really need to keep this in mind. The essence is changing the face of the region in a fast and integrated manner [that] impacts the local and national economy.”

The funds were divided into Rp 1.07 trillion for 21 infrastructure projects in Lake Toba, around Rp 900 billion for 19 projects in Borobudur, Rp 950 billion for 17 projects in Mandalika, Rp 630 billion for 26 projects in Labuan Bajo and Rp 480 billion for 25 projects in Likupang.

The five new Balis are hoped to raise the contribution of tourism and the creative economy to 12 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) within ten years, up from 7.3 per cent today, according to Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.

The government also expects the five destinations, along with Bali itself, to spur domestic travel and thereby help Indonesia’s tourist industry to recover this year.

The industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic as countries and cities imposed mobility restrictions.

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data shows that foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia were down 86.59 per cent year-on-year (yoy) in February as countries maintained travel restrictions. The average occupancy rate of star-rated hotels was down 16.82 percentage points yoy at 32.40 per cent.

However, Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani previously told The Jakarta Post that domestic travel was insufficient to recover Indonesia’s tourist industry, as foreign travelers tended to be the bigger spenders.

“The key is that international tourists have to come, ” he said in a phone interview on March 22.

“If it is just locals, it will not be enough.”

Furthermore, the new Balis project took another big hit after United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, said the Mandalika project, aimed at serving the 2021 MotoGP motorcycle race, allegedly involved forced evictions of residents without compensation.

“Large-scale tourism development that tramples on human rights is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of sustainable development, ” De Schutter said. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

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