Lake Toba Tourism on the Rise after Covid-19: Targeting 850.000 Visitors

Samosir Island, Lake Toba
Samosir Island, Lake Toba, one of super priority destinations in Indonesia (photo: supardi sinaga - Unsplash)

The Lake Toba region, designated as one of Indonesia’s Super Priority Tourism Destinations, is gradually recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tourist arrivals are steadily increasing, with a targeted total of 850,000 visitors expected in the area, particularly on Samosir Island.

Tetti Naibaho, the Head of the Samosir District Tourism Office, has disclosed that this ambitious target aligns with the improving economic conditions and the restoration of travel mobility post the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We anticipate that these visitation goals will continue to rise. For this year, our target remains at 850,000 visitors. Looking ahead to next year, we aspire to welcome 1 million tourists,” she elucidated during an interview conducted in Huta Siallagan village, as reported on Sunday (8/10/2023).

Furthermore, Tetti emphasized that the majority of these targeted visitors are expected to be domestic tourists, constituting an estimated 80 percent of the total. Meanwhile, foreign tourists are anticipated to contribute to approximately 20 to 30 percent of the predetermined goal.

In terms of foreign tourists, those exploring the Lake Toba Super Priority Tourism Destination predominantly originate from various Asian countries, with Malaysia being a primary source. Additionally, there has been a notable increase in tourists from Europe, including the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

However, Tetti underscored that their primary challenge is not solely the quantity of tourist visits but rather the extension of their length of stay. The aim is to encourage longer sojourns, as presently, the average duration of a tourist’s stay stands at 1.5 days. Ideally, they are targeting an extended stay of 2-3 days, which would invariably lead to higher spending per visitor.

Meanwhile, reflecting on the year 2022, the Samosir District Tourism Office documented a total of 820,000 tourists, encompassing both domestic and foreign visitors, who explored the enchanting landscapes of Samosir Island. Notably, 6,000 of these tourists were of foreign origin.

Taking a closer look at the previous year’s statistics, foreign tourist numbers were still in the vicinity of 6,000. For the current year, data collection efforts are still underway to provide a comprehensive picture of the tourist influx.

It is essential to recognize that the Lake Toba Caldera received its prestigious Global Geopark status back in July 2020, following a session of the UNESCO Executive Board, which saw it joined by 15 other distinguished UNESCO Global Geoparks.

During this accreditation process, UNESCO was convinced of the profound geological significance and the rich cultural heritage associated with the Toba Caldera, particularly in terms of cultural traditions and biodiversity.

Nevertheless, recent developments have brought to light certain concerns regarding the Lake Toba area’s UNESCO Global Geopark status. Zumri Sulthony, the Head of the Lake Toba Caldera UNESCO Geopark Management Agency in North Sumatra, has disclosed that UNESCO has issued 7 recommendations to the Management Agency.

Among these recommendations, several key points have been highlighted, including the need for comprehensive geological heritage mapping, a more thorough documentation of cultural and intangible heritage, an evaluation of management practices, and an enhanced visitor experience through improved site visibility, potentially through the establishment of an accessible gateway facilitating exploration of the Lake Toba Caldera geopark area.

In addition to these considerations, UNESCO has urged the management to proactively publish informative materials such as books, maps, and brochures, specifically focusing on the Lake Toba Caldera region. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on strengthening the community network and enhancing the representation of UNESCO in both Indonesia and Paris to ensure the sustained preservation and promotion of this remarkable geopark.