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Aceh Province assured to benefit from hosting Indonesia Travel Mart TIME Pasar Wisata

Northern Sumatra Province of Aceh hosted with success the 20th edition of TIME Pasar Wisata, capitalizing on the positive impact that the province will provide to tourism professionals.

BANDA ACEH – Pasar Wisata is entering its 20th anniversary and the event has been a constant feature of Indonesia tourism industry, according to Meity Robot, Chairperson of TIME 2014. “We went through turbulent times but the show is well perceived as a B2B event which showcases new destinations and products in Indonesia. This is important for buyers from all over the world to experience something new beside traditional destinations such as Bali, Jakarta or Yogyakarta.
Originally hosted exclusively in Jakarta, TIME Pasar Wisata took a new dimension after 10 years by rotating to provinces. Rotating on a two-year base, the show has been hosted in Makassar, Lampung, Lombok, Yogyakarta or Padang in the past before to be hosted in Aceh this year. “All the provinces which welcomed TIME PASAR WISATA have then see a rise in their arrivals as new tour operators included the destination in their program”, said Meity Robot. The show attracted some 60 buyers from 18 countries and 60 sellers from 15 provinces in Indonesia. A relatively small number compared to other similar shows but the organising committee points out the good quality of buyers and sellers. Year after year, transactions during the show have reached over 20 million US dollars in the last few years. “This year, we target estimated transactions of US$27.5 million approximately, increasing 10% from the previous TIME 2013 in Padang, West Sumatra, which generated US$25.4 million,” Meity added.
The 20th edition in Banda Aceh faced some difficulties with the venue being announced relatively late – end of June- while the financial contribution of the Ministry of Tourism for the promotion of the show was reduced this year- due to the Presidential election. It is to be hoped that the new Indonesian Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya– who used to be head of Indonesia state telecom company PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (TLKM)- will favourably at the show, which remains an important element of promotion for Indonesia tourism industry. 
For the province of Aceh, being the host province of the show is seen as a wonderful opportunity to change perceptions about the destination. During the opening ceremony at the official residence of Aceh Governor, Haji Zaini Abdullah, Governor of the Province, highlighted that tourism in Aceh has developed steadily since 2004, the year of the great tsunami, which left a heavy toll on the Province with over 150,000 dead and 650,000 homeless not to mention the thousands of buildings, infrastructures which were totally destroyed. 
Aceh as one of Indonesia’s provinces located strategically in the westernmost part of the country and along the international shipping line or along the “Malacca Strait”, is also eager to catch up its economic development through tourism industrial sector in partnership with tourism-related stakeholders domestically and internationally through a mutual economic cooperation”, said the governor. 
Aceh is now welcoming 1.075 million of domestic visitors and over 42,500 international travellers with annual growth rates ranging between 10% and 15%. The province hopes now to attract up to 1.5 million visitors in 2014 and has an ambitious target of welcoming four million travellers by the year 2017. 
This effort will then foster a fastest development of hospitality infrastructures. Aceh has only a total of 5,000 bedrooms in 307 hotels and there is an obvious lack of four-star accommodation around the province. The only four-star hotel in Banda Aceh, the Hermes Hotel, is due to start an extension project to add another 50 rooms by next year while it seems that Accor Ibis brand could soon open a property on Sabang Island. Discussions are currently in the process. 
The province is gaining a reputation of a surfers paradise with Sabang island, north of Aceh, being the new iconic destination for international travellers lured by its rich sea fauna and flora and a clean and safe environment. Branded the “Gold Island” by international magazines, Sabang is considered among the best for diving and snorkeling spots in Indonesia. Also, Sabang has so far become one of world’s most famous stop over for cruises, thanks to its natural and cultural beauty. 
Banda Aceh, the regional capital, is a peaceful place and offers today the usual face of many Indonesian urban areas with its lively markets, its warm and welcoming people. The city has a lot to offer for cultural attractions, from its splendid mosque –which miraculously survived 2004 tsunami- to historical areas such as the Dutch cemetery, the old governor’s house and of course the Tsunami Museum. 
There is a tsunami-related tourism of course but we see it in a positive way. It is not only looking at destroyed areas and the loss of life but also a remnant of the suffering and then the strength of Acehnese people as well as a look to find solutions, opportunities to manage and prevent large scale disasters”, explained Rahmadani, Director of Programming and Planning at Aceh Culture & Tourism Office. Two boats brought inside the city by the powerful tsunami as well as the iconic Tsunami Museum are now important sites for travellers who can learn about the tragic event but also see locals fighting spirits and how the tragedy has been turned into a new opportunity for growing again. 
The tsunami has been a blessing in disguise as it ended up years of conflicts with Indonesia. Today, we live peacefully and we want to show it to the world. Seeing is believing and believing is loving”, concluded Rahmadani.
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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.