As Indonesia picks up the pieces from the deadly earthquake that hit Central Sulawesi last Friday, trade players interviewed report that Sulawesi tour programmes remain largely unaffected.
Ricky Setiawanto, director of business development Africa, Europe, and Baltic States of Panorama Destination said Palu, Donggala and Mamuju – the trio struck by the tsunami following the earthquake – are not main tourist destinations and hence not included in its Sulawesi overland tours.
Each year, Destination Panorama sees an average of 10 tour groups, each with around 20 participants, taking up its Sulawesi Overland Tour. The trip starts in Manado, North Sulawesi to Makassar, South Sulawesi or vice versa. The only stops in Central Sulawesi are in Togean Island, Ampana and Tentena, which are quite far from Palu, Donggala and Mamuju.
Ricky explained: “At the time of the earthquake, we had a tour group in Tentena, Central Sulawesi. They were a little shaken but not affected. Now the group is already in Toraja and the tour goes as usual.”
Palu and the affected areas are also not featured in Sulawesi tour programmes for Makassar-based Incito Vacations although some of its clients transit in Palu.
Ng Sebastian, owner of Incito Vacations, said: “The impact (from the recent disaster) is minimal as only a few of my guests want to transit in Palu. Most of them fly directly from Makassar to Poso or Gorontalo.”
For those who have booked through Palu, Ng will divert the route directly to Poso as the Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu resumes operations.
Based on updates given by the Ministry of Transportation, there is a little damage in the airport. Other airports around Palu like Jalaludin Airport – Gorontalo, Kasiguncu Poso Airport and Tanjung Api Ampana airport appear to be intact with all flights operating as usual.
Ng said: “(Travellers spend up to) 23 days on overland tour (in Sulawesi), but the route does not pass through Palu, Mamuju nor Donggala.
“The closest tourist attraction from Palu is Lore Lindu, and this is not in the overland tour package. Special interest tourists, such as the bird-watchers visit here,” he said, adding that travellers could still visit the area via Poso.
Arief Yahya, tourism minister was quick to assure that other destinations in Indonesia remain safe to visit. He said: “The Java Islands in general, Bintan and Bali are safe.”
Currently the Ministry of Tourism, through the Tourism Crisis Center, continues to monitor the situation in Central Sulawesi.
Arief said: “Our current priority is evacuation. The government will do the best to help the people in Palu, Donggala and Mamuju. After the emergency response period is over, we will begin the recovery process.”
The Ministry of Tourism will focus on handling human resources and the overall recovery of affected destinations, while simultaneously conducting promotions and marketing.
Palu and Central Sulawesi in general are an industrial area, particularly in the nickel industry.
A deadly earthquake and tsunami hit the area on late Friday afternoon, when the city of Palu was celebrating its anniversary with a number of events, among which were the Cross Country Paragliding Championship and Palu Nomini Cultural Festival.