The beauty of the mountains and the huge lake lit up by thousands of fireworks accompanied by contemporary music brought by Indonesia’s popular singers on a floating stage on Saturday night, and the next day an endless parade of color and pomp presenting dances and traditions of all seven districts surrounding Toba, cheered on by tens of thousands of school children and inhabitants in their colorful traditional costumes, was a memory to last a lifetime.
The task to implement and coordinate this huge and intricate event fell on the shoulders of the Minister of Tourism, Arief Yahya and his staff working together with the local governments, the people and artists, who all deserve kudos. In fact for 2 days Lake Toba Carnival became the number one trending topic in social media.
But what now? Will all that just remain a beautiful memory?
In fact, the purpose to hold this year’s National Day Carnival around Lake Toba held a deeper goal, namely to lift and revitalize the huge Lake Toba area in North Sumatra, with the support of all its stakeholders, and most importantly of its local inhabitants to become one of Indonesia’s 10 top Tourist Destinations by 2019.
“Lake Toba Tourism will be developed into one of Indonesia’s major Ecotourism Destinations” confirmed President Joko Widodo, who was present duringn the entire two-day Festival . This magnificent caldera which came into being through a mega volcanic explosion some 75,000 years ago together with the fascinating cultures of the different Batak clans are natural assets that must be carefully preserved and developed to benefit the local inhabitants and increase the number of tourists to Indonesia, said the President.
On his inspection tour of the region, President Joko Widodo and the First Lady also planted fruit trees, instructing the Minister for the Environment to ensure that in order to conserve the environment, 1 million trees will be planted around lake Toba before December this year. A flower park is also in the offing.
Silangit Airport expanded, infrastructure improved
For this purpose, a Lake Toba Tourism Authority will be formed soon, said the President. One of its main tasks will be the immediate development of infrastructure. Most important is the expansion of the nearest Silangit Airport in the district of North Tapanuli, some 1.5 hours drive from Lake Toba. If today its runway measures only 2,400 meters, this will soon be extended to 1,650 meter, and its width widened from the present 30 meters to 45 meters. Works are expected to be completed by July 2017. There will also be additional parking space for 4 aircraft the size of B737-500. This will allow Garuda ‘s Bombardier planes to make a U-turn on the tarmac.
The Terminal will also be completely newly constructed and enlarged from the present 500 sq.m, to 1,706 sq.m. displaying a design of typical Batak houses done in the traditional colors of red, white and black, added Tourism Minister Arief Yahya
At present Garuda operates frequent weekly flights from Jakarta to Silangit, and now also the airline serves daily flights from Medan’s Kuala Namu Airport to Silangit. Other airlines are Sriwijaya Air and Susi Air.
Meanwhile, the President also promised an additional ferry boat to accelerate transfer of tourists from the shores of Parapat to Samosir Island. Improvements will also be made to the ferry piers.
Additionally, to improve road access from Medan to Lake Toba, which at the moment takes around 5 hours, a toll road will be built from Kuala Namu Airport to Tebing Tinggi and on to Pematang Siantar. Meantime the Pematang Siantar- Parapat scenic road will be widened to allow more buses and increased road traffic .
Through joint close cooperation between the Ministries involved at National Government, the local governments surrounding Lake Toba, the industry and participation and support of the people, Lake Toba and its surroundings may look forward to a brighter future through sustainable tourism efforts.
Lake Toba Independence Day Carnival, has indeed lifted the spirit of the people and succeeded to promote Batak culture to a wider national and international audience. (WS)