June 16, 2023
JAKARTA – The government has laid out an ambitious plan to revamp the management and facilities of Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java, with a primary focus on streamlining bureaucratic red tape that has for years plagued the management of one of the world’s greatest Buddhist temples.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would soon publish a regulation to grant InJourney, a state-owned holding company for aviation and tourism, the sole authority to manage Borobudur.
This, Sandiaga said, was hoped to accelerate the ongoing process of developing Borobudur’s facilities, particularly since the government had listed it as a “super priority” tourist destination.
“We hope that [the development of Borobudur] as a super-priority destination would be finished by September 2024 […] so that [it] could help accelerate the recovery of the tourist sector,” Sandiaga said after attending a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Buoyed by loosened health restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic eased, the government has set an ambitious target of attracting 8.5 million and 14 million foreign tourists this year and next year, respectively.
Sandiaga also said that Borobudur was hoped to be a hub for Buddhist tourists, particularly since Buddhism is the second-largest religion in the ASEAN region.
The government is planning to improve transportation options going in and out of Borobudur, with a particular focus on developing transportation networks, including toll roads and trains, to travel to the temple from Yogyakarta International Airport, located around 60 kilometers away, according to Sandiaga.
In addition, the government will also be developing supplementary facilities around Borobudur, including a tourism village. The project is expected to generate 4.4 million new jobs by 2024.
InJourney president director Dony Oskaria said Jokowi’s decision to grant the company sole managing rights would go a long way in improving Borobudur’s management and its marketing overseas.
Aside from developing it as a tourist attraction, Dony said the company would also put emphasis on conserving the archeological site, preserving its spirituality as well as strengthening efforts to educate tourists on the history of the temple, including by building a museum.
“Going forward, we will review the master plan [for the development of Borobudur] as per the [President’s] directives,” Dony said, also on Tuesday.
As the oldest Buddhist temple in the world, debate continues to swirl on how best Indonesia should preserve Borobudur, with plans to overhaul the temple’s management dating back to 2016.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan proposed last year an astronomical ticket price hike geared to restrict the number of visitors in hopes of preventing further structural damage to the temple compound.
The plan, while welcomed by the country’s archeologists, was nixed following protests from the Buddhist community and tourist industry stakeholders.
Borobudur has recently garnered international attention following the arrival of 32 Buddhist monks, who walked on foot from Thailand, to celebrate the Buddhist holy day Waisak earlier this month.
The group began their long-distance pilgrimage, also known as thudong, at the end of March from Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand, walking for 10 days to Malaysia and then for 29 days to Singapore. They later crossed the Singapore Strait to Batam, Riau Islands, on May 8. On the next day, they traveled by plane to Jakarta and walked to the Borobudur temple.
UNESCO considers Borobudur one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. It was built in the eighth and ninth centuries during the Syailendra dynasty.
The main temple is a stupa built in three tiers around a hill. The structure consists of a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the base a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. On its circular platforms, the temple hosts 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.