By Markus Makur in Flores, Indonesia
The stage is set for the Tour de Flores, a world cycling event that aims to boost tourism on Flores, an island in Indonesia blessed with rich and unique marine life.
The event, which will run over 10 days from May 16 to 26, is being jointly held by the Tourism Ministry and the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry, with support from several other ministries, including the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry.
East Nusa Tenggara Legislative Council member Bonifasius Jebarus said the East Nusa Tenggara administration and regency administrations in the province should work to ensure that the Tour de Flores would boost the tourism sector and economy on the island.
He hoped the event would not be only ceremonial, bringing no lasting impact to local communities.
“We should take an important lesson from the last event held by the East Nusa Tenggara administration, the Tour de Timor, during which tourism stakeholders were not involved optimally. A ceremonial event means nothing to us,” the lawmaker said.
Bonifasius added that the upcoming Tour de Flores event should involve more culturally aware activities, in line with the local wisdom of the island.
“I also hope that the Tour de Flores won’t only aim to politicise the tourism sector. It is hoped that the event can push forward social movements, in which local wisdom can synergise with and support the development of modern life in the island. We should no longer work against our local wisdom but instead begin to work with the society?s prosperity in mind,” said Bonifasius.
Flores Community Development chairman Ferdinandus Watu, who is also involved in tourism in Ende regency, said the Tour de Flores cycling event was a key event expected to successfully boost tourism on the island. Flores has many special tourist attractions, he said, including unique natural tourism and ecotourism sites.
Currently, people in Flores are facing various challenges, including poor infrastructure, and this event could help improve the economy, he said.
Ahead of the event, Ferdinandus said, local administrations had started to tackle piles of garbage scattered in areas along the Trans-Flores road, starting from East Flores to Labuan Bajo. Garbage is one of the most critical problems in Flores.
“Each regency administration must clean up garbage that has piled up in areas along the Trans-Flores road, so that, hopefully, Tour de Flores participants can remember this island for its cleanliness,” he said.
West Manggarai senior guide Gabriel Pampur said the Tour de Flores formed part of the island’s tourism promotions.
“Maybe it will not have a immediate impact on the economy; but after this cycling tour, it is hoped that more tourists will come to the island, improving the economy [over time],” he said.
Official data obtained by The Jakarta Post reveals that the East Nusa Tenggara administration allocated Rp 3 billion (US$225,000) to the Tour de Flores 2016. Nine regencies in Flores will also contribute Rp 750 million each, totaling Rp 6.54 billion. It is predicted that overall the Tour de Flores will cost more than Rp 8 billion.
Twenty countries are expected to participate in the cycling tour, with a total race length of 661 kilometers, starting from the capital city of East Flores regency, Larantuka, making its way to Labuan Bajo, the capital of West Manggarai regency.