The planned July opening of Lombok International Airport on Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara, will have a positive impact on the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Bali and Beyond program, which aims at promoting tourist destinations other than Bali.
The Bali and Beyond program is geared to luring visitors not only to Bali but also to Lombok and other places in eastern Indonesia including East Nusa Tenggara, Papua, Maluku and Sulawesi.
The development of Lombok International Airport in Tanak Awu village in Central Lombok, which cost Rp 625 billion (US$73.1 million) excluding the cost of land, will replace the current Selaparang Airport in downtown Mataram, the provincial capital of West Nusa Tenggara.
The new airport is being built on a 550-hectare plot of land after 12 years of land disputes with locals.
The airport will have a 2,750-meter runway that will be 45 meters wide, suitable for large aircraft including the new Airbus 310 and Boeing 747.
Bagus Sudibya, chair of the Association of Travel Agencies covering Bali and West and East Nusa Tenggara, expressed optimism about the opening of the airport in Lombok, saying it could open doors to the eastern parts of Indonesia.
“Lombok International Airport will become the second gate to eastern Indonesia. Lombok and Ngurah Rai International Airport in Tuban can complement each other to bring in international visitors to the two islands as well as neighboring islands in East Nusa Tenggara and other eastern regions,” Sudibya said.
Ngurah Rai is currently the second most crowded airport in the country after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.
Bali welcomed 2.4 million foreign visitors and 4 million domestic visitors in 2010. Bali will also develop a new international airport in Buleleng regency in the north.
Sudibya said the operation of the Lombok airport would also curb the flock of workers from Lombok to Bali.
“This will be good for boosting Lombok’s economic condition, which will certainly flourish when the airport opens. It will absorb local workers thus improving the living conditions of people in Lombok.”
Sudibya said Lombok can attract visitors from new emerging markets including Malaysia, Brunei and Middle Eastern countries.
“Lombok and Bali also have similar cultures but Lombok is rich in Islamic tradition that can become new tourist potential,” he said.
Currently, tourists from countries in the Middle East flood Malaysia and Singapore during the peak summer holidays in June and July.
“Many tourists from Europe and America spend two weeks with Bali and Beyond holiday packages with daily spending of at least $150 per person starting from Easter in April through October every year,” Sudibya said.
IB Ngurah Wijaya, chair of the Bali Tourism Board, shared a similar opinion.