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Sawahlunto Promotes Tourism: Padang, Sumatra

Username By Barrie | May 8th, 2007 | Comments 1 Comment »

For more than a century, Sawahlunto, in West Sumatra, has been a booming coal mining city. Originally a small town, coal was discovered in the area in 1867 by Dutch geologist William Hendrik De Greve and by 1891 a flourishing coal industry had grown. After 110 years, only half of the 200 million tons of high-quality coal, thought to be the best in Asia, originally believed to exist in the ground is left.

Around six years ago, the city stopped relying on coal as its main source of revenue. State-owned coal mining company PT Tambang Batubara Buki Asam’s Ombilin Mining Unit, which has been working in the area since 2000, had noticed a gradual reducing in income and the declining price of coal on the global market was seriously threatening the company’s future.

As a result, the municipality went looking for other resources and now tourism, which was not previously exploited, is set to become the city’s main cash cow. Old Sawahlunto city, built during the Dutch colonial era, is expected to become a major heritage tourist attraction that will bring in overseas visitors.

Old Sawahlunto spans 250 hectares, including the coal mine, coal railway line and station as well as more than 100 ancient buildings dating back more than a century.

The municipality opened the Railway Museum and the Gudang Ransum Museum last year. The gudang ransum, or rations warehouse, was where thousands of orang rantai (chained people), or convicts from various prisons who were forced to become miners, took their meals, during the Dutch colonial era.

The municipality has also begun construction of sites appealing to domestic tourists, including a water theme park and the Kandih Sijantang Lake resort, which covers 400 ha. A race course, motor bike track and safari park are also in the works.

While there are no star-rated hotels yet, the hotels in the area can accommodate up to 500 guests.

“We are promoting Sawahlunto as a tourism city starting from scratch because the city has never been known as such a city. We have to work hard and try to make interesting things to boost tourism, and the efforts have started to show some results,” said Sawahlunto Mayor Amran Nur.

Foreign tourist groups have started to visit Old Sawahlunto. And numbers of visitors from neighboring Riau and Jambi have drastically risen with the presence of the water theme and safari parks.

The Waterboom theme park, opened in January, brings in Rp 120 million (US$13,500) monthly. Amran says he believe that with the new revenue, the city will be able to reach its annual income target of Rp 1.8 billion, or 15 percent of the regional initiated income in 2007 of Rp 17 billion, despite the fact that it did not earn a single rupiah from tourism last year.

“We will start promoting tourism this year by distributing booklets and erecting billboards along provincial roads from Pekanbaru to West Sumatra. We will attract visitors from Pekanbaru heading to Bukittinggi thus far. We will also carry out a promotion campaign at Minangkabau International Airport to woo tourists,” said Amran.

The municipality will also focus on health, education and agriculture.

Amran said patients from surrounding areas had sought medical treatment in the city after the administration refurbished the Sawahlunto General Hospital a few years ago. It was the other way round previously, when patients from Sawahlunto sought treatment in Solok. Now, Solok residents prefer to treated in Sawahlunto.

In the agricultural sector, the administration provided 1.2 million cacao seedlings and 300,000 rubber tree seedlings along with fertilizer to farmers for free three years ago.

It has also provided soft loans to farmers to buy a total of 3,000 head of cattle and helped in goat and cricket farming.

“We will back those who wish to do anything or whatever they are doing. This is an advantage of regional autonomy. We can create programs according to people’s needs, which is different before that, when the programs came from the central government and most of them were not effective,” said Amran.

The biggest challenge faced by the city of 52,562 people and spans 270,000 hectares, according to Amran is limited human resource development and the unwillingness of residents to work hard.

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

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One Response to “Sawahlunto Promotes Tourism: Padang, Sumatra”

Diah | October 28th, 2007 at 12:32 am | comment link
top comment

Hai, thanks for information. I’m seeking more information or old photo of sawahlunto.
I hope you can help me. Thanks for your attention

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