A signboard on Jl. Mister Muhammad Hasan, the main access to provincial capital Banda Aceh, reads “Welcome to Banda Aceh, Indonesia’s Islamic tourism destination.”
“As a place blessed with natural beauty, tourism is one of our main assets to improve our economy,” said Banda Aceh vice Mayor Illiza Saadudin.
According to Illiza, Indonesia, as well as the international community, is aware that Aceh implements Islamic sharia law, thus her office is making efforts to form a synergy between tourism and Islamic sharia so it may be able to become a marketable commodity. “We will not only prepare areas as tourist attractions, we will also make ready the human resources to make the ‘2012 Visit Aceh Year’ a success,” said Illiza.<
She is optimistic that visitors would still visit Aceh should it become an Islamic tourist destination.
Religious tourism will be one of the city’s prime selling points thanks to various historical sites linked to the era of Islam’s arrival to the Indonesian archipelago.
The municipality will also promote areas devastated by the 2004 tsunami as tourist attractions. “I’m sure that many people will visit Banda Aceh to learn about Islamic history and the tsunami,” she said.
A number of people see the attempt of promoting the province as an Islamic tourist destination as a hindrance to the development of tourism in Aceh.
According to Mariansyah, Aceh apparently enforces sharia law, but that does not mean Aceh has something specific to offer to tourists, especially foreign visitors.
Meanwhile, dozens of Muslim students affiliated with the Indonesian Muslim Students’ Union, urged the Banda Aceh municipality to immediately promote Banda Aceh as an Islamic tourist destination.
Illiza said Aceh’s vision as an Islamic tourist destination would be realized by 2012.