Sabang in Aceh will play host to an international yacht rally this month, as part of a government campaign to promote the country’s westernmost city as a marine tourism destination.
Sapta Nirwandar, director general of promotions at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said the Indonesian Sailing Federation was staging the first Sabang International Regatta, from Sept. 15-25.
Participants will cover more than 500 kilometers, sailing across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia’s Langkawi Island and finishing at Sabang’s Weh Island.
“We want to use the Sabang International Regatta 2011 to introduce Sabang to the world as a marine destination in the western part of Indonesia,” Sapta said.
“Sabang Port is interesting for foreign tourists. There are many international cruise ships that stop there to see the beauty of Weh Island, which has become a center of marine tourism in western Indonesia.”
Sabang was one of the areas most devastated by the tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004. Firmansyah Rahim, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s director general of destination development, said the city had rebuilt its infrastructure to support tourism.
“We are trying to develop interesting travel packages to promote the region. It has lots of potential, with many dive spots,” he said.
Sabang, Firmansyah said, is being developed as one of 18 planned stopping points in Indonesia for luxury yachts.
Munawar Liza Zainal, the mayor of Sabang, said they needed more investment to develop the natural beauty of the city, both underwater and on land.
According to Munawar, there are about 400 hotel rooms in Sabang but no hotel has earned even a one-star rating.
“Hotels are all managed by locals. It is because we do not have any big investors yet after the 2004 tsunami,” he said.
To improve tourism in Sabang, “we have to provide comfortable and charming accommodation and a clean and tidy environment,” the mayor said.
There are lots of economic selling points in Sabang for travelers and potential investors, Munawar said.
“Unlike other districts, Sabang issues business permits itself so investors do not have to try to get them from the central government,” he said.
“Sabang is also a duty-free island where we do not impose a luxury tax.”
Yacht Rally Marks Tourism Push for Aceh’s Sabang