President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to fly to Ambon, Maluku, for the peak of celebrations of the Sail Banda international maritime event on Tuesday, a move he hopes will show the world the province is now safe.
Yudhoyono, who will leave Jakarta on Monday, believes promoting its safety will help boost the Ambon economy, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Fadel Muhammad said.
“When conflict broke out in Maluku, its economic growth was minus 29 percent. Perhaps no other place in the world has experienced such bad economic growth,” said Fadel, who opened a seafood and fish product expo in Ambon on Saturday, referring to sectarian conflicts that rocked the province between 1999 and 2001.
On Sunday, hundreds of Ambon residents took part in a celebratory feast held to coincide with the Sail Banda maritime festival.
The Makang Patita communal food feast, presenting 2,010 different fish recipes, broke the Indonesian Record Museum’s record. The organizer also planned to submit the record to the Guinness Book of Records.
“The feast not only broke the national record but also a world record,” the museum’s senior manager, Paulus Pangka, said on Sunday.
Of the 109 ships taking part in Sail Banda, 46 set sail to Banda, 62 to Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara and one to Bangka-Belitung. Over the next three months the ships will stop over in 18 regencies in eight provinces.
After arriving in Banda, the 46 yachts set sail to Ambon where participants are scheduled to take part in a series of activities, including visits to tourist sites and cultural festivals.
Separately in Kupang, around 130 participants aboard 57 ships have arrived in the city, where they are scheduled to stay for the next five days before continuing westward to Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.
A tour of the province has been planned for them, encompassing Ape Cave, Oenesu Fall, Tesbatan, Lasiana Beach, Flobamora Mall, Kupang Museum and traditional villages in South Central Timor regency.
Several participants expressed enthusiasm upon their arrival on Friday. They had gone through an ordeal when their boat was rocked by 3-meter waves in the Timor Sea, they said.
“We are home safe. No serious incidents on the way here. The reception here was good and we can interact with local people, storytelling with children and enjoying Kupang food,” said Lydia Woodhouse, a participant from Darwin.
The participants hail from the United States, UK, Australia, France, Austria, Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, Argentina, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Japan, the Cook Islands and the Netherlands.
While Woodhouse was enthusiastic about the Kupang tour, she said not enough information had been provided, and that local organizers had not provided enough guides.
She said very few participants knew tourism destinations in Kupang and its surroundings.
The participants were also scheduled to visit Nemberala Rote (a popular surfing destination), Alor, the traditional village of Tatpla and Moko Museum. They will also travel to Lembata to watch the traditional whale hunt by Lamarela fishermen.
Teddy Tanonef, hailed as a local tourism hero after he pioneered the sail program in 2002, said he hoped to bring in more private tourism operators to make the event more successful.