President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday launched the Visit Lombok Sumbawa 2012 program in Senggigi, West Lombok, in a bid to turn West Nusa Tenggara into a leading tourist destination in the country.
Also in attendance at the ceremony, held at the Shantosa Resort, were Cultural and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, Fishery and Maritime Affairs Minister Freddy Numbery, Industrial, Trade Minister Marie Elka Pangestu, West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zainul Majdi, provincial officials, regents, mayors, tour operators and other guests.
In his keynote speech, Yudho-yono said the government fully supported the Visit Lombok Sumbawa 2012 program.
"Improvement in the tourism sector could spur economic growth in general. One potential area for growth, that must be promoted domestically and overseas, is Lombok and Sumbawa," he said.
The role of tourism as a contributor to the country's foreign exchange had become more important, he said. Last year, at the height of the financial crisis, the tourism sector ending up as Indonesia's third largest foreign exchange market after oil and gas and palm oil.
"Tourism contributed Rp 75 trillion to the economy last year, with 6.4 million tourists arriving from overseas. This is not only the biggest achievement in the past 10 years but in the history of Indonesian tourism," he said.
Yudhoyono said the tourism sector had also contributed 5 percent to national investment growth and played a major role in absorbing the workforce by providing 6.7 million jobs. Governor Zainul Majdi said the Visit Lombok Sumawa 2012 program was part a wider tourist development program in the province.
"We hope that West Nusa Tenggara will be able to attract 1 million visitors annually, which could happen if all those involved in the sector, province wide, get involved in pushing forward these plans," said Zainul.
Lombok Island is famous for Senggigi beach, Mount Rinjani and the Kuta coastal area in Central Lombok, while Sumbawa Island is renowned for Mount Tambora and Hu'u Beach in Dompu.
"West Nusa Tenggara consists of 331 smaller islands called the gilies, such as Gili Trawangan off North Lombok and Moyo Island in Sumbawa. These places were once visited by international celebrities, such as rock legend Mick Jagger and Lady Diana," he said.
The development programs, he said, were also aimed at greeting the launch of Lombok International Airport, which will be operational by 2010 and an international resort in Central Lombok to be build by developers from Dubai.