West Java Tourism and Culture Office has launched the historical railway tour route in the southern part of the province, in line with the reopening of the service between Bogor and Sukabumi, and from Sukabumi to Cianjur last year.
The route, which in the 1880s connected Buitenzorg-Soekaboemi-Tjiandjoer stations, was the first to be established in the mountainous area of West Java, also known as Priangan. It was built to connect the fertile inland of Priangan and the commercial harbour of Batavia (Jakarta) during the colonial period.
Closed from 2009, the route connecting Bogor and Sukabumi was only reopened last year with three departures a day, and reconnected with the Sukabumi-Cianjur route.
Meanwhile, the Cianjur-Bandung line is currently under construction. When ready, the train route from Bogor to Bandung will complement the existing busy Jakarta-Bandung route in the north.
To market the revived train route as a tourist product, the West Java Tourism Office recently conducted a three-day/two-night fam trip for 18 Indonesian inbound travel companies.
The tour took participants to cultural and historical attractions in Bogor, such as the Batu Tulis Inscription, Bogor State Palace and a traditional wooden puppet maker.
A visit to the gutta-percha – a type of coagulated latex – factory in Cipetir, Sukabumi, was among the highlights. Dating back to 1885, the facility is still in operations today.
Daniel Nugraha, owner of the Exotic Java Trails and organiser of the fam trip, told TTG Asia that West Java is in need of new tourism products to attract visitors.
“The southern route is rich in colonial history and has not yet been explored. Now that the rail track and train routes are available, we can develop interesting packages, particularly for the European market,” he said.
There are opportunities for the destination to attract corporate incentive groups too, he added.
The Tourism Train can be chartered and built into a customised itinerary for groups of 40 and more guests.
State-owned railway operator KAI allows for such flexibility, noted Daniel.
Iwan Wahyudi, general manager of Nusa Dua Bali Tours & Travel, a participant on the fam trip, is hopeful of offering the new programme to his European customers.
“Visitors coming from Jakarta can go to Bogor to visit the Botanical Garden, stay overnight in Bogor, then take the morning train to Sukabumi,” he said.
While he found the Cipetir factory to have an interesting history, the facility needs to be revitalised to be appealing for tourist visits.
“For the time being, I think the Pasirnangka Tea Plantation nearby is more saleable. My European travellers will like that,” said Iwan.
Lesandri Adnan, director of San Putra Sejahtera in Bengkulu province, suggested stepping up promotions on the Gunung Padang site close by, to attract history buffs.
“We learnt that the site was estimated to be built around 800BC, making it older than the Egyptian sphinx which was built around 2,500BC. Highlighting this in the destination promotions will attract travellers, scientists and archeologists to come (to West Java),” he said.