Parapat. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the government will expand Silangit Airport in North Sumatra’s North Tapanuli district to boost tourism at Lake Toba.
At 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide, Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. It was one of Indonesia’s most popular holiday destinations for local and foreign visitors in the 1980s and 1990s, before environmental degradation prompted a gradual decline in tourist numbers.
In June, Jokowi formed the Lake Toba Tourism Authority Board in a move to boost tourism in North Sumatra. The body is tasked with providing a tourism masterplan for the period 2016 to 2041.
The president, who arrived in North Sumatra on Friday (19/08), promised to take concrete actions to implement the Lake Toba tourism agenda, including airport expansions and toll road developments.
“I have ordered the demolition of the old terminal [at Silangit Airport] within this week and the building of a new one that must be opened to the public before the end of this year,” Jokowi said at the Inna Parapat Hotel in Toba Samosir district on Saturday.
The president also called on flag carrier Garuda Indonesia to fly at least three times daily to Silangit Airport, located to the south of Lake Toba, even if no passengers purchase tickets.
The airport expansion is expected to involve a terminal upgrade that will be able to serve up to 180,000 passengers a year – around 20 percent more than its current capacity. The airport’s runway will also be extended from 2,400 meters to 2,650 meters to allow Boeing 737-800 aircraft to land there.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the government will also expand Sibisa Airport, which is located in Toba Samosir district to the east of Lake Toba.
The airport will have its runway extended from 750 meters to 2,250 meters, Luhut said.
He added that the government will begin the development of a 97-kilometer toll road between Pematang Siantar and Simalungun next year.
“This could be the easier project, since 50 percent of the land belongs to [state-owned] Perkebunan Nusantara [PTPN]. We hope the toll road connecting Medan to Toba Samosir will be completed by 2019,” Luhut said, as reported by Antara news agency.
He said three top-class businessmen have met President Jokowi to offer support for the government’s tourism agenda in the Lake Toba area.
“They are committed to building five-star hotels, international convention centers, and more,” Luhut said.