The Indonesian government’s steadfastness to transform Nias into a global tourist destination gateway was echoed by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan while officially opening Sail Nias at a peak ceremony held at the Teluk Dalam Seaport, South Nias District, North Sumatra Province, on Sept 14, 2019.
Various activities organized during the event included the Wonderful Nias Expo 2019, battleship parade, Nias Marathon, culinary bazaar, and traditional art and cultural performances.
Other activities comprised Wind Surfing and Sailing Contests, Free Diving Competition, Stone Jump Festival, Coffee Festival, Fishing Tournament, Wonderful Tourism Photo Expo, One Thousand Tents Festival, the Mt Sitoli cultural seminar, and Traditional Fishing Boat Parade, with the participation of some 100 fishermen boats.
A ceremonial stone jump tradition is the icon of Nias and has already gained popularity among travelers. The stone jump tradition was born along with the Nias War Dance. Since primeval times, tribes in Nias would oftentimes clash among themselves, and the chief (siulu) of every tribe trained their young members for war; stone jumping being part of the training.
The 2019 Sail Nias event involved four districts and a city on the island of Nias, specifically Gunungsitoli City and the districts of South Nias, West Nias, Nias, and North Nias.
It unveiled Nias Island as the best-kept secret of Indonesians to the world. Among the top secrets of Nias Island is Sorake Beach, recognized as the second-best place to surf, after Hawaii.
"We see Nias as one of the most popular regions for surfing. We have organized international surfing competitions here. The tourism minister is also present here. We are determined to make Nias better," Pandjaitan stated.
He appealed to all elements of the nation, including the government and community, to continue to work hard to promote tourist destinations on Nias Island.
The Tourism Ministry avers that Sail Nias 2019 offered the momentum to revive tourism on the island located in North Sumatra Province and popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
"Sail Nias has become a momentum for the revitalization or revival of tourism in Nias," Rizki Handayani, deputy in charge of marketing development of the Tourism Ministry, stated here on Thursday.
The island has scenic beaches, suitable for water sports activities, such as surfing and scuba diving.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Nias had gained traction as a haven for surfers and viewed as one of the world's premier surfing locations after Hawaii.
Sail Nias was expected to help restore Nias' popularity as an international marine tourist resort. Several foreign cruises and yachts visited Nias during the event.
Themed "Nias Toward World Maritime Tourism Gate," Sail Nias is the 11th series of Sail Indonesia organized annually since 2009. The previous Sail Indonesia series were Sail Bunaken in North Sulawesi in 2009, Sail Banda in Maluku (2010), Sail Wakatobi-Belitong in Southeast Sulawesi and Bangka Belitung (2011), Sail Morotai in North Maluku (2012), Sail Komodo in East Nusa Tenggara (2013), Sail Rajampat in West Papua (2014), Sail Tomini in Central Sulawesi (2015), Sail Karimata Strait in West Kalimantan (2016), Sail Sabang in Aceh (2017), and Sail Moyo Tambora in West Nusa Tenggara (2018).
Sail Indonesia is initially targeted to boost development in remote regions in Indonesia and promote tourist destinations in the host regions.
The international maritime event has indeed helped boost infrastructure development on Nias Island, which lies some 125 km off the western coast of Sumatra Island on the Indian Ocean.
Pandjaitan stated that the government will renovate infrastructure, particularly those connecting the local airport and tourist destinations in Nias Island to drive tourism in the region.
The government has remained committed to developing the tourism industry in Indonesia by building infrastructure to ensure connectivity among tourist objects.
"The government will develop a link from Toba to Sibolga and then to Nias. The airport has been expanded. Despite the presence of a mountain there, we will try to expand the runway to 2,700 meters to enable the landing of Boeing 737. We are trying to find a solution now," he stated.
Airport renovation is crucial as a proper airport can help boost tourist arrivals akin to what was observed in Lake Toba after Silangit Airport was upgraded into an international one.
The minister quoted President Jokowi as saying that tourism is currently one of Indonesia's economic growth pillars. The president emphasized that Nias should focus on its two fields of tourism and fishery that hold major potential.