The Indigenous people of Urat village in Lake Toba have been left out of rural tourism development

Photo of Lake Toba, North Sumatra, Indonesia,

In 2017, Indonesia announced an ambitious plan to attract 20 million international tourists by 2019 by developing ten new tourist destinations, dubbing them “the 10 New Balis”. One of the destinations is the scenic Urat village, a small village in the middle of Samosir Island in Lake Toba, North Sumatra.

To get there, one must take an hour and half hour trip by plane from the capital, Jakarta, to Medan or Silangit airports in North Sumatra province, then travel 30-45 minutes by boat to Samosir island, followed by a four hour drive. This rural tourism destination offers nature, culture, and adventure as its tourism attractions.

In this research, we studied the relationship dynamics between indigenous peoples, government (policymakers), and local vendors in the process of developing Urat as the main rural tourism destination within North Sumatra.

We found the indigenous Batak people felt that they are being left out of the process of rural tourism development. Rural tourism development encourages local entrepreneurs to increase trade, which helps in achieving income equality.

The indigenous Batak people in Urat, who mostly have low education levels and work as farmers or construction workers, lack access to the information and funding that would boost their capacity to benefit from the tourism trade.

The Urat Village

Urat is one of the home to the Bataknese (locally known as Batak), the third-largest ethnic group in Indonesia (8.5 million people), after Javanese and Sundanese. Some 2,000 Bataknese out of 100,000 Bataknese in Samosir Island live in Urat.

We chose Urat for our research as it has received priority from the (local) government as one of the villages in Lake Toba to guide other villages in the development program.

It also shares characteristics with other targeted villages among the ten new destinations, such as: limited infrastructure (public roads, public sanitation), similar social-demographic situations (social status, population), insufficient access to education (limited numbers of schools and teachers), and poor social welfare.

This is an excerpt from an article by Ringkar Situmorang, Arnold Japutra and Teddy Trilaksono, originally published by The Conversation


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