Indonesia is set to receive UNESCO Geopark status for an area of land and ocean close to Gorontalo in North Sulawesi. Five locations will be combined to form one geopark: Olele Marine Park, East Biluhu dive site, Botubarani whale shark site, Cargo Ship ruins and Bongo religious village. These popular tourism hotspots are located in three administrative regions, namely Bone Bolango regency, Gorontalo regency and Gorontalo city. All five can be found on one long stretch of coastline in the Gulf of Tomini; the biggest gulf on the equator.
“This geopark concept has a sustainable aspect and has vast potential,” said Budi Sidiki, who is the head of the Gorontalo Development Planning Board (Bappeda), in an interview with Kompas.com during a recent workshop on geopark tourist destination development.
The news is expected to provide sustainable development for conservation efforts in the region, along with a number of initiatives focusing on education and welfare for local residents. The integration of the five destinations will start with the unification of tourism workers, entrepreneurs and provincial administrations to design a destination concept that can be offered to international tourists.
UNESCO defines global geoparks as a unified area with a geological heritage of international significance. The initiative was launched by UNESCO to protect sites that are important to earth science and works in synergy with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre with an aim to enhance the value of such sites, while at the same time creating employment and promoting regional economic development. Many geoparks promote awareness of geological hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis; many more help prepare disaster mitigation strategies with local communities. Tourism industry promotion in geoparks, as a geographically sustainable and applicable tourism model, aims to sustain, and even enhance, the geographical character of a place. A geopark also promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there.
Indonesia is currently home to four other UNESCO Geoparks, namely Batur UNESCO Global Geopark, Gunung Sewu UNESCO Global Geopark, Ciletuh – Palabuhanratu aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark, and Rinjani-Lombok UNESCO Global Geopark.