ASEAN 2012 kicks off promotion with an announcement that an impressive 40% increase in interest and reservations are already logged for the forthcoming tourism venue, ATF 2012 due January 13-15th at the Golden Kawanua Convention Centre, Manado.
Sulawesi with its turbulent history has over the years suffered many natural disasters and cultural wars and difficulties. Perhaps the most recent being the center of inter-religious muslim-christian conflicts currently sweeping the world. Sulwesi is the 11th largest island in the world, yet containing some of the most poorest inhabitants who survive below the poverty line on just $1US a day. Child labour and trafficking are the highest in the world, and overshadow an otherwise largely undiscovered slice of paradise.
Manado has managed to secure some resort developments but these privately funded businesses do not always pass profits onto the locals in any scale. Employment assists the economy but a lot of imported skilled labour is employed without the continued education of locals to replemise the growing needs most of which are centered around diving tourism, PADI schools and a number of other facilities offering dive support or related business openings.
Some enterprising Indonesians have however grasped the opportunity of the new tourists who visit the region and a host of glass-bottomed boats tours, food outlets, fishing and scuba items, tee shirts and other tourist related must-haves are surfacing around the resorts and hotels catering for the international diver. Sulawesi has one of the lowest educated and literate populations in the world, more is needed to address this problem.
The Way Ahead for Manado
Manado does however offer a kind of alternative Bali and not by accident. It was this thinking that the Indonesian government leans towards in the promotion of the region. Bali has now largely over run the tourism industry, all year round more tourists than locals can be counter on the streets of most towns within the island.International tourism has embraced tourism and Bali as the ultimate paradise, recently Koreans also acknowledged this fact and now dominate the island recently discovering the 6 hour flight to be an acceptable time distance to travel to enjoy the beaches, weather and lifestyle of the Balinese people and their island paradise.
Bali offers a feeling of safety, comfort and tropical paradise, there are no perceived threats from Islamic or Muslim influences despite the not-so-recent infamous Bali bombings. Its Hindu population, gothic style buildings add all the elements for a truly tropical exotic holiday.
Saturated with tourism, alternative locations are being promoted, developed and discovered by global travellers that meet the same needs as Bali. Indonesia has risen to meet this challenge and in doing so has put itself in direct competition to the Philippines resorts of Cebu, Bohol and Bocoray where affluent Koreans tourists are the prime catch. What Manado does not yet have but will need to provide will be world class golf facilities, sports and family interest pastimes if Koreans and other travellers are to be secured along with good flight connections.
The good news is, Manado City has been for recent years marketed as the new international city and many top hotels have invested and speculated at the possibility that the dream could in fact come true. Some of the best beaches in the world are offered on the coastline of the island, nature at its most natural and pristine is available for travellers and tourists to enjoy. The costs are low and accommodation offered from basic to 5 star. Hotels such as Novatel have built resort type accommodation with sport and golf courses as part of their enticement recognising the needs of modern tourism.
Diving is among the best sites in the world with unspoilt coral and fish colonies available to beginner, novice and expert diver alike. Eco-tourism, rainforest and mountain walks are also available in this virgin tourism market but sadly many of the species that visitors come to see alive and free running within the green canopy can be found, stuffed as trophies in the many markets scattered around the city in particular Tarsius Spectrum, the smallest primate in the world and other live specimens like the Black Macaque monkey, sold openly as pets. If eco-tourism is to flourish then these practices are best confined to the out-lying villages like Tomohon where dog meat is normal cuisine and Paniki (smoked bat) is a local specialty.
Bats are most likely the only nightlife in the region, although recent years great developments have occurred in the city, night time entertainment grins to a halt around 10pm save a few local bars, here resorts take over keeping the guests on-site and spending within their walls. This is a shame as Indonesia known as the land of smiling faces has a lot of traditional culture to offer culture hungry visitors which hopefully will be addressed by some enterprising entrepreneurs in the near future.
More to follow anon