Following the powerful earthquake that hit Lombok last Sunday, industry stakeholders in Indonesia are taking swift steps to facilitate the return of travellers home.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), said: “Gili and Lombok are safe, and people are not required to leave. The seven-magnitude earthquake was the main shock. There will be hundreds of smaller quakes to come.”
He added that further big earthquakes in the near term are unlikely.
The joint Search and Rescue Agency team managed to evacuate between 2,000-2,700 domestic and foreign tourists.
Muhammad Faozal, head of the West Nusa Tenggara Culture and Tourism Office, said: “At press time, there are at least 600-700 people who have not been transported (out of Lombok). The number (is) still increasing as many more want to go home.”
Visitors from the Gili Islands were being evacuated through three ports in the Lombok region and transported to Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara.
There remains limits to ship capacity, Faozal pointed out, adding that transfers to Bali by sea was also not optimal due to the high waves.
Additional ships, including two navy ships, were deployed to facilitate evacuation. At press time, there remained around 200 tourists waiting to be transported, he said.
In the meantime, local tourism stakeholders have stepped in to shelter visitors awaiting evacuation and facilitate their transportation.
“For those who’ve left the Gili Islands but have to stay in Mataram because they cannot fly out yet, we provide free lodging at the tourism office. Meanwhile, for those who want to continue the journey to the airport, we will also facilitate free airport transfers,” said Faozal.
From Lombok, the Ministry of Tourism is providing free bus transportation for tourists to the port or directly to the airport, while the Association of The Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) and Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) were also providing food and stay facilities free of charge.
On the Gili Islands, Dewantoro Umbu Joka, chairman of ASITA West Nusa Tenggara, added: “The West Nusa Tenggara Culture and Tourism Office immediately set up an (emergency) post in the office and provided shelter for visitors who do not have a place to stay. All facilities were provided free of charge.”
Austin Gusman, manager of Gili Amor Boutique Resort in Gili Trawangan, revealed that some local residents have jumped in to house stranded tourists in tents.
In anticipation of the movement of passengers in the wake of the disaster, Garuda Indonesia on Monday operated three extra flights on the Lombok-Denpasar route. More flights are expected to be added today.
The national disaster mitigation agency has stated that it is not necessary to leave the affected islands. DMCs Khiri Travel Indonesia and Asian Trails have also issued statements saying that changes to travel programmes were unnecessary.
But Khiri Travel is giving travellers the option to do so, or move guests scheduled to visit Gili Islands to alternative accommodations.
“Without any further incidents, Khiri Travel believes it will be possible to resume normal travel to Lombok in a few weeks’ time, especially the largely unaffected south and eastern areas of the island,” the DMC stated.