JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Plans are afoot to officially turn sites around Indonesia's erupting Mount Sinabung into observation points for hordes of tourists who are eager to watch the volcano in action.
The sites, which are already used by visitors to admire the volcano, are located in villages outside the 5km radius of Sinabung's peak.
A survey had been conducted on several of the sites, according to Dinasty Sitepu, head of the Tourism Agency of the Karo regency in North Sumatra where Sinabung is located.
Dinasty added the locations would be proposed to the local legislature and regent so they could be confirmed as tourist sites in Karo.
"The locations are often visited by local and foreign visitors interested in Sinabung's activity. The locations are both beautiful and safe," he told The Jakarta Post after visiting some of the locations in Karo on Tuesday.
Dinasty said the idea to create the tourist sites was motivated by the enthusiasm of tourists who had headed there. He added that some tourists had visited the sites almost every day during their stay.
"The eruption of Mount Sinabung is a blessing in disguise. Many come here just to see it and they aren't afraid," said Dinasty.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Restaurant and Hotels Association Karo chapter head Edy Sofyan, who joined a tour to several of the new sites, said he strongly supports the steps taken by the Karo regency administration to classify four locations around the mountain as tourist areas.
"The move should be supported to prove that people don't have to be afraid, but its good to be cautious," said Edy.
Edy said that so far, the potential of many tourist sites in Karo remained untapped, despite having great potential.
He pointed to the Tiga Pancur village in the Simpang Empat district as an example, one of the potential observation points, which he said had been largely ignored even though visitors could view the volcano's crater from this village.
The other three potential locations are the Gamber and Tiga Kiket villages in the Naman Teran district, and the Sibintun village in Simpang Empat.
Karo acting regent Terkelin Brahmana told the Post while he supports the proposal "because it can generate income for Karo regency", visitor safety should be a priority in the new volcano tourism plan.
On Tuesday, Sinabung was still erupting and emitting pyroclastic flows that reached as far as 3,500m to the south.
It also emitted volcanic ash, covering the area in fog.