What is Indonesia doing to make Lombok safe again?
INDONESIA has been devastated by a series of fatal earthquakes over the past month.
The first, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, struck West Nusa Tenggara and Lombok on July 29, killing 14 people and injuring hundreds more.
Then on Aug 5, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Lombok again, flattening homes, destroying bridges and killing a reported 142 people.
Thousands of people have been left without homes and tourism to the region reduced almost immediately after the events as travelers fled the archipelago in their masses.
The empty beaches, hotels, and restaurants on Lombok are a peculiar sight as August is usually peak season for tourism on the island which attracts around one million visitors per year.
However, many people are worried about traveling to the area, and Tourism Minister Arif Yahya predicts to lose some 100,000 tourists this year given the series of sporadic earthquakes.
This is an extremely worrying predicament for businesses there as tourism is the top contributor to the local economy for Lombok.
According to authorities, the island has suffered at least US$437 million worth of damage, in addition to the loss of income suffered by independent businesses relying on tourism.
While some tourists have been undeterred by the earthquakes, others are dubious as to whether Lombok and other islands affected by the tremors are safe to visit.
But the Indonesian government, led by president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is keen to win back the confidence from foreign visitors.
Jokowi has begun restoration efforts by issuing a number of rehabilitation instructions to ensure facilities for education, health, religious and economic activities will be ready to reopen by December this year.
To ensure Lombok, and other islands including Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno don’t suffer economically through loss of tourism, the government has also announced a two-pronged strategy to get travelers back to their shores.
The strategy will be led by the West Nusa Tenggara tourism office with supervision from the Ministry of Tourism. The two-pronged approach will focus on rehabilitation for the most affected islands and promotion for less affected, but still struggling islands.
“The recovery programmes will not solely involve one stakeholder but everyone,” the head of West Nusa Tenggara Tourism Promotion Board, Fauzan Zakaria told TTG Asia.
“Airlines, hotels and other tourism stakeholders will do their part in launching promotions to limit cancellations and build traveler confidence to visit Lombok again,” he added.
Hotels have already begun offering promotional packages such as giving away one-night free stays for travelers staying at least three days.
Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association (West Nusa Tenggara Chapter) chairman Lalu Abdul Hadi Faishal confirmed these promotional efforts are to convey the message that Lombok’s hotels are safe.
Despite the best efforts from Indonesia’s government and tourism boards, some foreign offices are still warning against traveling to West Nusa Tenggara and Lombok unless absolutely necessary.
If you are planning on traveling to Indonesia, be sure to have contingency plans such as travel insurance with flight and medical cover, just in case the volatile “Ring of Fire” erupts again.
Knowing how to react in an earthquake is also essential to your safety, so have a read of our simple guide.