As Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra, casts its sights on becoming a sports tourism destination by leveraging the 2018 Asian Games – which it will co-host with Jakarta – some in the trade expressed concern about sustaining visitor volume beyond the event.
With the support from the central government, the regional government is currently beefing up infrastructure in South Sumatra. The Jakabaring sports stadium is undergoing expansion to become a ‘sports city’, with the addition of sporting facilities, athlete accommodation, a convention hall and more.
Also under construction are a Light Rail Transit connecting the airport, two new bridges across Musi River that runs through the city, and the 22km toll road between Palembang and Indralaya.
Jakabaring aquatic centre
Speaking during the opening dinner at last week's Bali & Beyond Travel Fair, of which South Sumatra was a co-host province, governor of South Sumatra Alex Noerdin said: “We are getting ourselves ready to host Asian Games 2018 and showcase our tourist attractions. Following the Asian Games we will host the Moto GP Circuit too."
Ahmad Najib, assistant governor, government affairs and community welfare, South Sumatra, added: “From the central government budget for infrastructure, we received 70 trillion rupiah (US$5.2 billion). From the regional budget we spent eight trillion rupiah plus funding from some businesses in South Sumatra.”
The destination is expecting a combined 10,000 athletes and spectators during Asian Games.
However, this demand may be more seasonal than is desired. Jonathan Mokalu, corporate director of sales and marketing, Sintesa Hotels Group, questioned: “It is great to have new facilities, but what will happen after the games? The destination needs to sustain traffic to fill hotel rooms.”
While lauding the efforts the provincial government has taken to develop Palembang as a sports destination, Muhammad Erfandi, owner of Muba Wisata Tour & Travel in Palembang, commented that the industry could benefit from some government budget diverted to improving tourist attractions.
Responding to the concerns, Ahmad said the regional government has collaborated with international sports federations, which could help keep up a stream of events in Palembang. “In 2011 we hosted SEA Games and University Games. In 2015, there were 23 single and multi-sporting events.”
For him, the benefits of hosting major sports events are undeniable. “Before 2011 (the year Palembang hosted SEA Games), there were only nine flights per day, today there are 52 flights per day and four direct flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur,” he pointed out.
Data from the South Sumatra Tourism Office showed international arrivals to the destination last year totalled 64,257, a 34 per cent increase from 42,321 in 2015.