There are several cities and towns in West Papua that are responsible for the province’s economic and financial developments. Even during the Dutch Colonialism era, Sorong was known for its natural resources and economic potentials. After independence, Indonesian government opened the lines of investments to Sorong, further creating an economic boom in the town.
General Information of Sorong
The name “Sorong” rooted from “Soren”, a Biak word that means “deep and wavy sea”. The name was bestowed by Biak people, who were known as sailors. When traders from China and India started coming to New Guinea, they often mispronounced “Soren”, which slowly became “Sorong”. European missionaries and Maluku sailors later followed the changed pronunciation.
Sorong has diverse land surfaces, with lowland, highland, and mountain areas. Rain happens almost every month, and the humidity level can reach 84 percent. However, it is a land rich in natural resources, especially oil. This has made Sorong one of the favorite destinations for migrants and investors.
Sorong also has a lot of rivers, such as Remu, Klagison, Klabala, Duyung, Rufei, and Klasaman. The rivers, along with frequent rain, have made Sorong ideal for farming. The rivers also allow locals to grow and harvest sago frequently, enough to sustain daily life. The ideal elements, combined with the coming of migrants, made Sorong one of the fastest-growing towns in Papua.
Sorong and the Economic Potentials
When the Dutch first came to Sorong, they saw the potentials from natural resources in the area, especially oil. They built an oil mining and refinery company called Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea Petroleum Maatschappij. This company contributed a lot to Netherland’s own economic boom, but it also caused Sorong to receive a lot of attention.
Migrants and Dutch people from overseas started pouring into Sorong, to tap financial profits from the growing oil business. Slowly, the business made the town grow into one of the busiest towns in Papua. Now, Sorong is known as the second biggest and busiest town in West Papua. It has started to show a significant increase in economic aspects since 2010.
Currently, properties, transportations, trading, and services dominate Sorong’s income. However, with the rising trend of tourism boom and traveling trend, Sorong has seen new opportunities in similar trends. 2013 also saw the buildings of several traditional markets, to better accommodate small business owners in Sorong.
Roles of Small Business in Sorong
Even before economic and tourism booms, Sorong has been empowered by small and medium businesses. The regional government even put “encouraging small businesses” as one of the development missions of Sorong. Internet and new infrastructures have helped people of Sorong to promote their small business products to the entire province and country.
In September 2017, Sorong reported 0.12 percent of deflation. There were several business sectors that had roles in the deflation, the most prominent were dried fish, mustard greens, kawalina fish, jackfruit, tuna, garlic, onions, and spinach. 2017 was even deemed as the best years in consumption price index.
There are many areas in Sorong that have high potentials in the fishing industry, which is still overwhelmingly supported by small and medium enterprises. Sele Strait has recently been mentioned as one of the new potential areas to develop fishing and farming industries.
Tourism Potentials in Sorong
Yosef H. Solosa, the head of Sorong Tourism Board, said that there are many areas in Sorong with high potentials to become the new tourist destinations. Not all of them have been explored by the local and central governments. However, the trend of eastern Indonesia tourism has increased exposure to Sorong as the gateway to Raja Ampat.
Located off the coast of the “bird’s beak” area in Papua, Raja Ampat is a collection of islands with diverse underwater life. This spot has been known as one of the best diving areas in the world, thanks to its rich biodiversity. When Raja Ampat rose to prominence at the beginning of 2010’s, Sorong also got the positive impact. The town were booming with various businesses and new infrastructures to accommodate visitors.
Some of the main programs for boosting Sorong’s economy through tourism are:
- The building of Tourism Information Building (Gedung Informasi Wisata) in 2014. This is the integrated center for visitors to find information about all good destinations in Sorong.
- The building of new roads. Some of road building projects in Sorong were aimed to increase the stream of tourists. The newest roads in Sorong include a new one that connects the downtown with port, and the one that goes to Klaili District, famous for its hot water spring.
- The improvement of natural and environmental tourism potentials, besides Raja Ampat. They include mangrove tourism, surfing in Um Island, and forest trips to see unique birds.
- The development of beach destinations. Islands of Raam, Doom, Soop, and Item are among the most popular beaches to visit in Sorong.
Sorong may not have tapped all its potentials, but it shows quick growth in economy trend. It is no wonder that the town became one of the biggest contributors to West Papua’s gross income.