>The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sat, 01/03/2004 2:41 PM Life
Bambang M, Contributor, Yogyakarta
The district of Sleman has discovered a new way to increase the income of its residents — turning its many unique villages into tourist attractions.
According to Destha Titi Raharjana of Gadjah Mada University (UGM)’s Center for Tourism Studies, the rapid growth in the number of tourist villages in Sleman since early 2000 is due to a change in the interests of tourists, who now like to enjoy quieter, more authentic and unique places. They also consider the cultural and environmental aspects in deciding which tourist destinations to visit.
G. Djoko Purwanggono of the Association of Indonesian Tourist Guides echoed Destha’s opinion, saying that since the 1990s he had found that many foreign tourists no longer showed a great eagerness to visit Borobudur Temple, Prambanan Temple or the Yogyakarta kraton (palace).
“”They prefer to visit places where other tourists don’t visit,”” said Djoko, who is also a guide for French tourists, adding that village life and its originality could be an alternative answer to meeting such a growing demand.
To turn a place into a tourist village actually does not require much apart from its having a unique potential that no other place has. The more unique and exclusive a place is, the more interesting it will be for tourists.
In the case of Sleman Regency, UGM’s Center for Tourism Studies has recorded some 27 villages that serve as tourist destinations.
One of those villages is Tanjung, 11 kilometers north of Yogyakarta. It’s one of the most visited places. Having 40 homestays, the village offers the beautiful landscape of a typical Javanese kampong along with ancient rituals, exotic food and daily agricultural activities.
“”A group of Japanese tourists once came here to learn how to cultivate rice,”” said villager Djamhadi.
Foreign tourists, however, are not the only guests that the village is trying to attract. Many domestic tourists, mostly from big cities like Jakarta, have also visited the village for a similar reason — a desire to taste the village way of life.
“”Staying in a village to taste its way of life is the main concept behind developing a tourist village,”” Destha said .
The good part of this kind of agricultural tourism is that there is no need to construct new facilities for the visiting guests. Tourists want to see the village as it is. The original look of a kampong is all that the tourists want to see.
Srowolan hamlet, some 17 kilometers north of Yogyakarta, is another example of a village worth visiting in Sleman. It has a traditional market building constructed in 1921 and a former Dutch tax office.
Each tourist village in Sleman basically has its own characteristics and specific attractions. In the northern part of Sleman regency, for example, tourists can enjoy villages that offer agritourism attractions, including salak (zalacca) plantations and cool mountain weather. Jambu, Trumpon, and Kelor villages are some of the villages that offer these attractions.
Ketingan hamlet in the northern part of Sleman is just like the other villages in the surrounding area. Except for the fact that it has become a place where thousands of egrets nest over the last few years. As a result, foreign and domestic tourists are now visiting the village to enjoy the amazing scene of thousands of egrets leaving their nests in the morning and coming back in the evening.
“”The reason why we want to make it a tourist village is to save the environment. In order to do so, we will require visitors to plant melinjo (Gnetum gnemon), the favorite type of vegetation of the egrets in which to make their nests, said Haryono, head of Tridadi village, which includes Ketingan hamlet.
Apart from their uniqueness, their proximity to Mount Merapi is also one of the factors that has encouraged the establishment of numerous tourist villages in Sleman. The volcanic ash produced by the volcano has made the soil in surrounding areas fertile enough for almost any plant to grow.
In addition, there is the beautiful scenery on the slopes of the volcano as well as the mountain scenery all around. No less interesting to tourists are the cultural and social peculiarities of villages such as Turgo, Kaliadem and Kinahrejo — all of which are on the slopes of Mount Merapi.
It is unfortunate that not all of the tourist villages listed by UGM’s Center for Tourism are yet to be fully ready to receive tourists.
Many of them, for example, do not yet have proper homestays with adequate facilities.
In addition, human resources problems have also emerged. Many of the villagers do not yet understand the concept of a tourist village, much less how to market one.
There are also cases where management of a village does not involve the whole community. In fact, it is essential that such a business is managed by the whole community. Brayut is an example of a tourist village that is managed without involving the whole community. As a result, the project quickly collapsed.
“”No tourists come to the village now. This is despite the fact that many came right after it was officially opened as a tourist village on August 14, 1999,”” head of Brayut village Sutarno said.
Apart from the obstacles that many of the tourist villages are facing in developing agritourism, Sleman is still worth visiting due to the existence of the tourist villages.
Therefore, it’s no exaggeration to say that if Cambodia is referred to as the country of a thousand pagodas, then Sleman may be aptly termed the district of a thousand tourist villages.