International visitors driving Lombok’s tourism recovery

Tourists in Gili Trawangan in 2016

Tourism business in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Province, is gradually picking up six months after the devastating earthquake hit the island’s north in August last year.

With a number of promotional activities and events planned, NTB tourism stakeholders expect that by the peak summer season this year, recovery of business will reach between 60-80 per cent of pre-disaster levels.

International tourists are making a comeback to Lombok (Credit: Special)

Indonesia Ministry of Tourism has 30 promotional events in the pipeline, including fam trips and sales missions to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and the UK.

“Fam trips help bring confidence to travellers that Lombok is safe,” said Nia Niscaya, deputy minister of marketing development regional II, Ministry of Tourism, at a media presentation publicising the ministry’s 2019 marketing programmes at Katamaran Resort in Lombok last week. “There are also four (traditional) festivals to promote Lombok in the country’s calendar of events this year,” she added.

Industry stakeholders in Lombok are already observing a gradual uptick in business, driven by international demand.

Emanuel Prasodjo Adji, general manager of Aston Sunset Beach Resort Gili Trawangan, said: “Before the earthquake, domestic and international arrivals to Gili Trawangan were between 1,000 and 3,000 people per day (depending on the seasons).” Currently, the number is around 900.

Looking at enquiries and forward bookings, he foresees that by the summer peak season, business would reach 60 per cent of the hotel’s summer 2017 performance.

Meanwhile, Wayan Sudiarta, general manager, Katamaran Hotel & Resort, said: “Despite the disaster, last year we managed to achieve an average occupancy of 80 per cent, which was 10 per cent lower than in 2017. “

It is still early to project for the year, according to Wayan, but looking at current bookings and performance, especially from China, Europe and the US, he estimated hotel occupancy can reach 70 per cent.

Despite the positive sentiment from the international market, the NTB Guides’ Association projects that full recovery to Lombok might take another year.

Said Lalu Widianing Artha, coordinator of the Code of Ethic Board at the association: “In areas like Gili (Trawangan), Kuta (Central Lombok) and Senggigi, currently only about 20 per cent of traffic has returned, also led by the international market.

“International travellers are more confident. They understand that natural disasters can happen anywhere and, unlike security threats such as terrorism. As soon as they see the destination (on its feet again), the demand (will return).”

He said fast boat operators from Bali are gradually increasing their frequencies and AirAsia’s plan to start flying between Perth and Lombok were a breath of fresh air for the destination, as accessibility is key to traffic growth.

On the other hand, the domestic market has been slower to rebound, according to Lalu.

He said: “The domestic market is big for Lombok. However, they are more hesitant to travel here now – feeling uncertain about safety. Besides, there are other issues like the decreasing seat capacity following the disaster. The hike of domestic airfares also has not helped to increase the desire to come here. This is a challenge for us.”

In response, the guides’ association has been doing a series of domestic road shows to Jogjakarta and Central Java and will next month travel to East Java.

“East Java is a very important market as about 80 per cent of domestic traffic to Lombok is from the province,” Lalu said.

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