Cheng Ho Sea Route to explore 9 cities in Indonesia

The Jalur Samudera Cheng Ho (Cheng Ho Sea Route) was officially launched in the Golden City Bengkong tourism area in Batam, Riau Islands, on Feb. 21.

The Tourism Ministry has set the Cheng Ho Sea Route as its main programme to increase foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia, particularly from China and other potential Asian markets.

According to history, Admiral Cheng Ho passed through Indonesia's archipelago five times during his seven-time world exploration over 28 years.

Therefore, nine cities were chosen as the main destinations along the programme's maritime path: Banda Aceh, Batam, Tanjung Pandan, Palembang, Jakarta, Cirebon, Semarang, Surabaya and Denpasar.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that the potential tourist destinations along the route were those with good economic prospects and would hopefully attract foreign investment in a sustainable manner.

"Batam was chosen as the programme inauguration's location not only because its water has been traversed by Cheng Ho, but the city is also seen as the most ready destination and is the third largest foreign-tourist entry point after Bali and Jakarta," Arief explained.

The programme's inauguration took place on the Golden Cheng Ho II, a three-deck wooden ship that, although smaller in size, is a replica of the Muslim admiral's ship.

The Golden Cheng Ho II is dominated with red and gold colors and is full of intricate carved ornaments depicting heroic stories from the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century.

The ship has been operating for the public since 2009 and regularly carries tourists on day trips through Batam waters.

A new Cheng Ho mosque is also currently under construction in Batam to support the new programme.

"We will cooperate with [state-owned shipping company] Pelni to work on tour packages for domestic tourists. New flight routes to those nine cities are planned to be opened as well, to provide direct access for international tourists," Arief added.

The arrival of Chinese tourists in Indonesia reached 827 thousand people last year and is expected to increase in 2015.

Most of the Chinese tourists who come to Indonesia take direct flights from Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou or Xiamen.