THE tourism sector is one of the foremost sectors hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not wanting to continue to regret the situation, the government instead sees the COVID-19 pandemic as a momentum to prepare the sector to rise by carrying out a number of developments and improvements.

As one of the super priority tourism destinations (SPTD), the development of supporting facilities for the Lake Toba area is also being pursued. This is because, compared to other super priority tourism destinations, such as Borobudur, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, and Likupang, Lake Toba still needs supporting infrastructure development.

The acceleration of the development of the Lake Toba area is also inseparable from the figure of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

Luhut continues to monitor and support the development of the Lake Toba DPSP. Every few months, Luhut diligently visits Lake Toba to see the progress of the development of the lake area which was formed by the super volcano eruption tens of thousands of years ago.

During his last visit, a number of development projects continued to progress. Starting from the construction of the Porsea Pier and the Balige 3 Vocational High School, which is a school with tourism vocational to support and develop the Lake Toba (SPTD)  .

The next project is Balige Pier and Lintong Ni Huta Tourism Village and the arrangement of the Parapat Free Beach area. Positive progress is also found in the Creative Hub candidate in Dolok Sipiak as well as road rehabilitation work at Pesanggrahan Soekarno.

The construction at Ajibata Port and Ambarita Port is also progressing and is expected to start operating at the latest September. Meanwhile, the project in Tano Ponggol will continue to be accelerated. In the project, an elevated bridge will be built which will connect Samosir Island with Sumatra Island.

There is also the Tebing Tinggi-Serbelawan toll road, North Sumatra, which connects Kualanamu to Parapat, one of the accesses to Lake Toba, will be able to cut travel time to one and a half to two and a half hours.

The plan is that the toll road, which will be opened at the end of December 2021, will connect to Pematang Siantar. Meanwhile, the plan to build the Parapat and Sibolga lines is expected to be completed in 2024.

Invite investment
The development of the Lake Toba area is one of the sectors offered by the government to potential investors.

Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) noted that a number of investments that investors could undertake include four and five star hotels on the hillside of Lake Toba, glamcamp (luxury camp), Meeting, Incentive, Convention, and Exhibition (MICE) facilities, commercial areas to indoor and outdoor entertainment.

BKPM Deputy for Investment Planning Nurul Ichwan said the government is offering investment in a 386.72 hectare land in Lake Toba which is held by the Lake Toba Authority Implementing Body (BPODT).

“The land is owned by BPODT so that it can be used for your investment needs. You can cooperate with BPODT or you can buy or rent it from BPODT and you can run a business as you wish in Toba,” he said.

On the other hand, Coordinating Minister Luhut also made an approach to a number of potential countries, including China. He said that the bamboo curtain country had planned to invest in Lake Toba for up to US$10 billion.

On one occasion, Luhut invited Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi to enjoy the beautiful panorama of Lake Toba while hiking and discussing investment cooperation, including tourism projects.

“Chinese investors, for example, have invested in several projects and will still invest in the Lake Toba area,” Luhut noted.

Meanwhile Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of China Zhang Xu pin agreed to continue to carry out international collaboration to handle the economic recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting the tourism sector.

“Promoting cooperation in the economic and bilateral trade between the two countries, especially in supporting tourism to increase economic growth and people’s welfare,” said Zhang Xu.

Toilet restoration
To support the Lake Toba tourism area, the government will renovate toilet facilities. As a country with amazing tourism potential, the cleanliness of public toilet facilities is one thing that affects the reputation of tourism in the country.

“Toilets are important, because in a tourist spot if there are no toilets, there is no water, there is no point. Therefore, the government is focused on encouraging improvements to the quality of public toilets, especially in tourist locations,” Luhut stated.

Unmitigated, the government also collaborated with Mister Loo, a Swiss startup that offers an innovative public toilet concept. There are 25 new toilets built at several points in the tourist spot of Lake Toba. The 25 toilets were built from CSR funds from several companies and will be jointly managed with Mister Loo.

In line with the direction to improve toilet facilities in tourist spots, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno plans to form a national toilet task force as one part of increasing the attractiveness of national tourism.

“We must improve the toilet management system in tourist areas to make Indonesia the main tourism destination in Asia,” Sandiaga said.

The Indonesian Toilet Task Force (STI), a community organization, also supports the Tourism Ministry’s plan to improve the conditions of toilets in tourist areas. Apart from the quality of cleanliness, in many tourist areas, there are still many toilets that do not have special facilities for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.

“We have studied in the field and found that there are five tourist areas in Indonesia that can become pilot projects promoting the Love for Clean Toilet Community Movement,” said the Head of STI Anthoney.

As one of the five super priority tourism destinations, the government continues to pursue the development and arrangement of the Lake Toba area starting from small things such as building toilets to investment from a number of potential countries.

The only hope is to prepare these destinations so that they can suck up a lot of tourist visits when the COVID-19 pandemic can start to be tamed. [antaranews/photo special]