There is a clear pent-up demand for Lombok after tourism took a hit last year and buyers are waiting longer to actualise bookings, but destination players are working hard on realigning their focus to capture more business.
Based on the assessment of Khiri Travel Indonesia’s general manager Herman Hoven during the Christmas/New Year 2018-19 peak, around 90 per cent of tourism operations in Lombok are back in business following the devastating earthquakes of August 2018. In north-west Lombok, the island of Gili Trawangan is leading the recovery, followed by Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Yet travellers appear to still be holding back their decisions, not just due to the Lombok earthquake and tsunami, but also because of the string of natural disasters that struck Indonesia in recent months, observed sellers at ATF last week.
Iwan Sitompul, sales consultant of Kura Kura Resort and Meno Mojo Beach Resort in Gili Meno, Lombok said: “The infrastructure in Lombok is ready, the fast boats between Bali and Lombok are back to normal, some has even added frequencies. Most of the affected hotels are up and running. In fact, Meno is newly opened.
“Since I arrived (at ATF), buyers have been asking me for updates on Lombok. This shows that the interest continues to be there, but somehow the bookings are very slow. In fact, Lombok is still close-sales for (some) UK buyers,” said Iwan, suggesting the lack of updates to overseas markets as a possible reason.
Robert Koni, sales and product manager of Manumadi Tours & Travel, noted that while bookings have been slower than usual, they are starting to come in.
He is hopeful that a Turkish Airlines fam trip for travel agents from Estonia to Bali and Lombok later this month, which Manumadi Tours is handling, will lead to more bookings afterwards.
Marika Gloeckler, executive manager product & consulting of Go Vacation Indonesia, said: “January-March are quiet months anyway, so it is normal not to see (European) travellers there yet. However, bookings from April onwards look good.”
Santika Indonesia Hotels & Resorts is also upbeat about Lombok’s future. The hotel group is opening an upmarket villa resort, the Kayana Lombok, a Royal Collection category in July 2019, just in time for the European summer peak.
Shedding light on how tourism suppliers in the destination are coping differently, Hoven pointed out that Gili Trawangan was recovering well due to its reliance on the backpacker and flashpacker markets. For some hotels on Gili Meno, more reliant on the couples and honeymoon market, and Gili Air, rebuilding will take more time.
He estimated that tourism operators in the north are trying to survive with business still at 10-30 per cent of pre-earthquake levels. Tourism businesses in the south of Lombok, with its deserted beaches, were hardly impacted by the earthquakes, he said.
It was a more mixed picture around Mount Rinjani in the centre-north of the island. The summit of the famous mountain remains closed leaving many of the guides and porters out of work.
As a response to the downturn, members of the Rinjani Women’s Guide Association have had to refocus their efforts, Khiri shared in a statement. According to the DMC, the guides are now more actively promoting trips around the villages and attractions of the Senaru foothills.