DestinationsWork is underway to develop tourism villages and boost travel in Indonesian Borneo.

West Kalimantan unlocks tourism through villages

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Fishing boats in Lemukutan Island, West Borneo, Indonesia.
Fishing boats in Lemukutan Island, West Borneo, Indonesia. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Qiera Qharis Pradiestha

Home to cloud forests, hundreds of rivers and seasonal lake systems, endemic bird species and endangered orangutans, and a diverse range of ethnic groups, West Kalimantan in Indonesia plans to develop 15 tourism villages to bolster the province’s travel sector.

Windy Prihastari, head of the West Kalimantan youth, sports and tourism office, said preparations are underway to develop tourism villages in each district, with each highlighting local traditions and culture as well as the natural environment, government news agency Antara reported.

West Kalimantan, the western half of the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, currently has 584 tourist destinations spanning across 14 districts and cities. It shares land borders with Central and East Kalimantan, and the Malaysian territory of Sarawak to the north. Ethnic groups include Dayaks—the indigenous people of Borneo—as well as Malays, Chinese, Javanese, Bugis, and Madurese.

Chinese have lived in West Kalimantan since the Ming Dynasty’s vast exploratory voyages in the early 1400s, while a republic was founded in 1977, which ended after Dutch occupation in 1884. Although the province is most renowned for its natural wonders, its Dayak and Chinese history also appeals to culturally-oriented travellers.

"It’s important to have a tourist village as a means of economic and social regeneration of the local community," Windy said. “Tourism villages pay attention to shared awareness and ideology, and they also have traditional leaders and key figures who pass down local wisdom. Stakeholders have a sense of shared ownership and a desire to advance their community.”

Each of the province’s tourism villages must have a fair resource distribution mechanism for its members, he added, so that in the future they can be a model for developing regional tourism.

Tourism villages entered the national spotlight recently after Indonesia’s tourism and creative economy minister, Sandiaga Uno, launched the 2021 Tourism Village Awards — the “flagship programme” of his ministry, CNN Indonesia reported.

“[The awards] raise the spirit of the people who are now slumped by the Covid-19 pandemic, considering that there are 1,200 villages that have tourism potential to be improved. [Through the awards they] can become an icon of national economic revival, open up business and job opportunities, and improve community skills related to digitisation.”

West Kalimantan travel provider Dewi Sapitri recently launched the ‘Heart of Borneo’ travel pattern, which includes ‘border to border’ tour packages in three locations on the West Kalimantan/Sarawak border, and covers several tourism villages, Republika reported.

Dewi said that in the last few months the ministry of forestry together with Betung Kerihun National Park and Lake Sentarum National Park have encouraged local tour guides to take part in certification.

"This is proof of the seriousness of our government towards tourism activities. This certification is a form of increasing the confidence of tourists, especially foreign tourists, so that they can visit West Kalimantan again," she said.

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