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Tourism suffers as Mt. Sinabung eruptions continue
Publication Date : 29-11-2013
The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, have not only greatly affected agriculture in the area but also has the potential to threaten tourism.
The number of foreign and domestic tourist arrivals in the regency has reportedly fallen drastically since the start of Mt. Sinabung’s eruptions in September.
Hotel operators claimed that many tour packages, booked by foreign visitors, had been cancelled due to the uncertainty of when the volcanic activity would cease.
Tandeanus Sukardi, proprietor of the Sibayak Hotel, said the drop in tourist arrivals had been relentless since September when Mt. Sinabung started erupting.
“Worse still, many year-end tour packages have also been canceled. People argued that they would not be comfortable as Mt. Sinabung was still erupting,” Tandeanus said on Thursday.
He added that most of the cancellations came from travellers overseas, including from Singapore and Malaysia.
According to him, he did not expect these current losses because his hotel’s occupancy rate at the end of the year was normally at its highest.
“We are worried about the low occupancy rate over the past three months and especially at the end of the year,” Tandeanus said.
He said he had suffered losses amounting to more than 500 million rupiah (US$45,500) per month so far.
Sahriadi, assistant manager at the Sinabung Hotel, said the number of guests staying at the hotel had dropped by up to 70 percent on weekends.
He added that the occupancy rate of the four-star hotel was usually full every weekend; however, since September, many guests had cancelled their visits.
Head of the North Sumatra Tourism Agency, Muchlis Nasution, said Karo regency, and in particular Berastagi, was a very popular destination for foreign and domestic tourists; as was evident from the number of foreign tourists who visited Karo before the eruptions began.
He added that based on data, the number of tourist arrivals in September 2012 totalled 19,092, while for the same period this year, the number actually rose to 20,949.
However the prolonged volcanic activity, Muchlis went on, had caused tourists to stay away.
“The drop [in tourist arrivals] has been between 20 and 30 per cent. This is obviously very disadvantageous to us,” Muchlis said on Thursday.
He said his agency had planned a number of tour programmes for the end of the year, including a flower festival, to boost tourist numbers.
Muchlis added that the flower festival was normally held each year in the middle of the year, but that this year’s festival would take place in December in an effort to revive Karo’s tourism.
“The festival will be held if conditions are deemed to be safe,” he said.
Mt. Sinabung, which is located 18 kilometres from Berastagi city, was still emitting volcanic ash on Thursday.
Based on the latest data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the number of evacuees has reached 16,721, equivalent to 5,666 families.
They are being accommodated in 30 shelters in four districts, namely Kabanjahe, Tiga Binanga, Munteh and Berastagi.