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High hopes for Lombok tourism

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Oct 15, 2010

LOMBOK (eTN)- Welcoming TIME Pasar Wisata travel show for the second time, Lombok Island hopes to further capitalize on the interest from international buyers generated by the hosted event. The first show hosted in 2009 had a positive impact on the Island’s tourism evolution.

“We have seen a steady increase in tourist demand for the Province of West Nusa Tenggara. We received 610,000 visitors both domestic and international last year and we target for this year over 700,000 visitors with an objective of welcoming a million travelers by year 2012,” tells West Nusa Tenggara Governor M. Zainul Majdi. Tourism is now the second largest industry in the Province, preceded only by agriculture. And the government is confident that it will reach worldwide exposure with the hosting of its ‘Visit Year Lombok’ in year 2012. “We are on target to achieve this goal,” says Lalu Gita Ariadi, head of Lombok-Sumbawa tourist Lombok Promoting Agency of Tourism (BPPI), the body representing private tourism companies just appointed two representatives in Australia and Korea to market the Island. “Australia is our top market while Korea is one of the fastest growing incoming market for us. We would like to appoint more representatives abroad but we have to be realistic about our budget capacity,” tells Awanadi Aswinabawa, BPPPI Chairman.

The young governor has high ambitions to turn Lombok into a global holiday destination. The entire tourism industry is investing US$ 28 million to upgrade Lombok tourism product including the training of human resources, the management of destinations and the organization of events.

Among Lombok-Sumbawa priority projects are the improvement of roads, the completion of the new airport and the development of further international standard hotels. “We see ourselves as a gateway to Eastern Indonesia, especially with the completion of the new airport,” the Governor explains.

However, the harsh reality seems to dampen the Governor’s ambitions. Best example is the new airport located in Southern Lombok. Originally planned to be opened in April 2010, the airport with its 2,750 m-runway will be able to welcome more international flights, in particular from Australia or the Middle-East. But the achievement of Lombok’s much needed new air facility encounters delays after delays. “The airport has been declared a national priority. We believe that it should then be ready by April 2011 but we cannot get a guarantee from the Airport’s Authority Angkasa Pura,” admits the Governor.

According to official sources, the passengers terminal is currently enlarged compared to initial plans, causing partially the current delay. But in reality, construction companies have been behind schedule to respect construction timing due to various factors such as power shortage or flooding, while roads leading to the airport have failed to materialize. “The new road will be finished by the end of the year including a by-pass road to the capital Mataram,” promises M. Zainul Majdi.

Other roads’ enlargement and by-passes are currently under construction in an area stretching from Gili Islands pier to Senggigi resort and Mataram. “Roads will be better and larger than in Bali with already parts of the by-passes already operational,” says Marcel Navest, Owner of Puri Bunga Beach Cottages in Senggigi and Head of Lombok Hotels Association.

Other services requesting more improvement are electricity –many areas still have no public lighting- and garbage collection. “We should get additional electricity supply with a new electricity unit by early next year. It will then give us 50% additional capacity,” adds West Nusa Tenggara Governor. Garbage still remains a major problem for Lombok. “There is obviously an education problem to teach people in the villages to stop throwing rubbish in the rivers or the sea as it is polluting the entire coast. And when we do have containers, collecting the garbage from public authorities is still a problem. Even hotels face difficulties to deal properly with garbage disposal,” explains Marcel Navest.

Once infrastructures fixed, the Governor looks to attract more tourism investments. Cold waters have been poured over Lombok’s largest investment to date. The development of an integrated 1,500 to 2,000-room resort by UAE-based EMAR has so far to materialize. Newspapers in the Middle East reported that EMAR had effectively abandoned the project. “We do not share this information. According to the national BPM, our official capital investment board, Emar did not withdraw and is still interested with the future development of Southern Lombok’s integrated resort. But we are of course looking at further investors,” indicates West Nusa Tenggara Governor. Some Lebanese and Malaysian investors visited recently Southern Lombok looking at possible tourism areas.

M. Zainul Majdi turns his eyes on the three Gili (meaning ‘island’ in local language), located Northwest of Lombok. Gili Air and Gili Trawangan have already many boutique hotels mostly in the four-star category. “They are perfect alternative to crowded Bali and can gear up to welcome honeymoon couples, families and divers thanks to its good infrastructure. We speak however about small numbers to preserve the environment balance,” says the Governor.

Progresses to turn Lombok into a world standard destination are already visible. They are more and more fine hotels and dining facilities available. The island has a rich cultural heritage with local Sasak and Balinese people living harmoniously together and untouched nature around Mount Rinjani National Park. “Lombok is ideal as a peaceful retreat and has still the advantage to remain largely unexplored and untouched by development. We just need maybe a little bit more activities to retain tourists longer,” admits Marcel Navest. And better compete with Bali still unbeatable power of attraction…

High hopes for Lombok tourism
Balinese dancer from Lombok (photo: LC)

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