The Jakarta Post
The Labuan Bajo and Flores Tourism Authority (BOPLBF) will spend up to Rp 4 billion (US$257,549) to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hard-hit tourist industry in the region, the agency’s top official has said.
BOPLBF’s president director Shana Fatina said the agency had prepared a three-step program to reignite the region’s tourism, which consisted of emergency, recovery and normalization measures.
“We can’t deny the fact that our hospitality and tourism services industry has grounded to a halt since both foreign and domestic tourists have stopped visiting,” Shana said in a press release issued on April 21.
As part of the emergency program, the authority will provide medical equipment and humanitarian aid for workers in tourism and carry out labor-intensive programs to employ furloughed workers.
The authority would also start collecting data from all involved in the tourist industry to assess the economic losses caused by the COVID-19 crisis, while simultaneously establishing a media center alongside the local administration to help disseminate information regarding the pandemic.
Once the pandemic is over, the BOPLBF will start the recovery efforts by strengthening the region’s human capital and promoting its tourist attractions to woo visitors and boost the industry.
“We know that we have to try anything. We can get through this situation in good shape if we work together,” Shana said.
She said the normalization measures would begin next year, when economic conditions were expected to improve, she added.
While the authority puts its focus on providing medical equipment and aid for tourist industry workers, a local tour guide expressed hope that the budget would prioritize the workers.
“I urge the authority to disburse the Rp 4 billion in funds for tour guides, hotel workers, travel bureaus and others that are hard hit by the COVID-19. As a tour guide, I've lost my income, since no-one is visiting Labuan Bajo,” Muhamad Burhato told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Labuan Bajo, located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), is one of the 10 "New Bali" destinations developed and promoted by the government to increase foreign tourist arrivals in the country.
Tourism in Indonesia has been deeply affected by the pandemic, with many hotels and travel agencies closing down due to a lack of guests.
The association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) reported that 98 percent of its 7,000 members, consisting of travel agents and tour operators, have temporarily closed their operations and furloughed employees.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) reported that 1,642 hotels and 353 restaurants had so far shut down. The association also reported that 180 tourist destinations and 232 tourist villages across Indonesia had been temporarily closed.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on April 16 ordered his ministers to disburse a stimulus package for businesses in the hard-hit industries of tourism and the creative economy to help them survive the economic impact of COVID-19.
He urged his Cabinet to support the tourist industry and said he believed it would bounce back after the pandemic is over by 2021.
“We must take advantage of the tourism boom that will rise after COVID-19 is over,” the President said. (mpr)