Papua Island’s forests are among those that are still well preserved, while the other provinces have to deal with deforestation. Hence, the development of the tourism sector in both Papua and West Papua Provinces must be based on ecotourism concept. In fact, it has been applied unofficially by the local governments. Still, the central government also has to get involved more to help accelerate economic development in the regions.
With ecotourism concept, the land of Cendrawasih birds may have a massive potential to be the world’s best ecotourism destination. This was stated by the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy/Deputy of the Tourism and Creative Economy Agency, Angela Tanoesoedibjo, while attending an event titled “High Level Meeting Forum on Green Investment for Papua and West Papua” in Sorong, West Papua back in February 2020.
The History of West Papua’s Ecotourism
A researcher conveyed a part of a book titled “Ekologi Papua” (2007) that tells about Papuan ecology. In the book, it is mentioned that a legendary British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, had visited the region—especially Raja Ampat Islands—in the 1840s. The book also mentioned other names such as Odoardi Beccari and Luigi d’Albertis who also visited West Papua’s Arfak Mountains in the 1870s.
The discovery of the twin lakes, Anggi Gigi dan Anggi Gita, was the latest achievement after the year 1900. Then, in April 1904, A. van Oosterzee, a government official in Manokwari (also an explorer) enthusiastically sent some live plants indigenous to both lakes to Bogor City. He was the first European to collect plants there.
Between 1906 and 1907, an American zoologist, Thomas Barbour, reportedly collected amphibians and reptiles around Lake Anggi and on Waigeo Island. Then, in December 1913, an independent researcher L.S.Gibbs, who was also an explorer and the first female scientist to be interested in the ecology and vegetation of tropical mountains in New Guinea, obtained more than 330 kinds of plants from Lake Anggi.
Today, it is still going on. The Regent of Arfak Mountains Regency, Yosias Saroy, stated in 2018, that many overseas tourists had been visiting Arfak Mountains due to their love for the land’s natural beauty, endemic animals and culture of tribal communities around. This is a great potential to accelerate the province’s economic development.
Why It is Important to Have Ecotourism in a Potential Area
Based on a work program (period of the year 2005—2025) journal proposed by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy Republic of Indonesia, there are three main purposes of applying ecotourism in the country:
- Increasing job opportunities and revenue in many sectors, especially for the locals. This will also raise funds for natural reserve preservation.
- Raising public awareness of products as well as services provided by West Papua’s natural biodiversities
- Reconciling between economic development and environmental concerns to reach sustainability in every aspect
The latter was also mentioned in the Tourism Act, Law No. 10 the Year 2009: Sustainability has to happen in every aspect of life, including social, natural, economic, as well as cultural environments. Therefore, it is important to apply ecotourism in every part of Indonesia. The locals, government elements, and foreign parties should not destroy any forms of natural resources, especially for economic reasons.
Highlights and Challenges
The event titled “High Level Meeting Forum on Green Investment for Papua and West Papua” in Sorong, West Papua in February 2020 introduced the potential of “green investment” for about USD 200 million (equal to IDR 2.8 trillion). The investment is expected to have an impact on the life quality of 60,000 families both in Papua and West Papua Provinces. The green investment applies the principles of sustainable development.
The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan stated that the concept of green investment soon to be applied in Papua and West Papua can help accelerate the region’s economic development on an eco-friendly way. The locals will do a large variety of economic activities around the ecotourism areas.
Firstly, the green investment plan will focus on investing in fishery and agricultural industries. The products can be exported and be part of ecotourism sector. More commodities to be developed are coffee, cocoa, and nutmeg.
Based on the data from West Papua’s Regional Governments, between 2009 and 2018, about 1,300 foreign tourists visited the Arfak Mountains and natural reserve. This means ecotourism is indeed a great potential to increase the community’s economic growth.
However, the challenges are infrastructures, transportations, as well as accommodations that are still lacking. Even worse, electricity has not yet installed in some remote villages.
Fortunately, in Raja Ampat Regency, local accommodation is not a challenge. Reportedly, 70% of home-stay services are offered by the local indigenous Papuans. This is important and should be maintained that way because supporting sustainable tourism also means encouraging local communities to get involved in it.
In fact, home-stay buildings in the Raja Ampat region are considered “green” as they help conserve the population of the local flora and fauna. These green home-stay buildings can be a tourist attraction as well.
Speaking of ecotourism, community welfare and natural resources should be the main focus. Investments should also prioritize the sustainability of many aspects, not only profits. Furthermore, the government also has to encourage the local communities to develop their own business around tourism sites. That way, the region’s economic development shall follow.