The Jakarta Post
The picturesque island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara. (Shutterstock/Tran Qui Thinh)
When he first arrived a decade ago on Lombok Island, Andrew Corkery was in a bit of a shock. It took about two hours for him to reach South Lombok from the old Mataram airport because of poor road conditions.
The Australian national who was initially eager to invest on the island because of the imminent operation of the new Lombok International Airport at that time, decided to cancel his plans.
“Due to the poor road conditions, it took too long for us to reach the destination from the airport," said Corkery.
However, he changed his mind again the next day. “In the morning, the sun came up and the view of the bay that we saw was magnificent. We decided to continue with the investment plans,” said Corkery.
At Selong Belanak Bay, Corkery and his partners later purchased 16 hectares of hillside land that boasts a jaw-dropping view overlooking the bay, where they established the Selong Selo Resort and Residence in 2009.
“Then things happened; the airport happened, the road got better, the infrastructure happened. It [was] a good place to invest,” Corkery said, adding that plans were currently being devised to expand into a beach club and other properties within Lombok.
“What the government has been doing with foreign investors is very beneficial. It’s becoming a lot easier for us to come in and invest,” he said.
In the past couple of years, Lombok has risen as one of the country's emerging tourist destinations. It welcomed more than 3 million visitors in 2016 and consistently experiences growth of more than 20 percent year on year.
Although last year's earthquake decreased the number of visitors, Lombok's tourism has bounced back and many developments are currently being planned. It has also been included in the "New Bali" program alongside another nine tourist destinations in Indonesia.
A new destination named the Mandalika is currently under construction on a 1,175-hectare plot of land with 12,000 hotel rooms, a 350,000-square-meter commercial space, a 78-berth marina and a 120 ha theme park planned. The area is to also feature a street circuit complex to host the MotoGP in 2021.
Many potential investments are also coming to the island, as revealed during the Island Tourism Forum at the end of April.
Initiated by Bali’s Australian Consulate General, the forum brought together government agencies, academic institutions, businesses, NGOs and social communities to share experience, encourage partnerships and explore investment and commercial possibilities related to West Nusa Tenggara.
“The initiative was inspired by a growing interest by Australians and Australian businesses in the tourism sector in Lombok,” said Australian Consul General in Bali Helena Studdert.
Studdert said the signing of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in March 2019 served as a new milestone for building two-way trade and investment.
“While the agreement is still to be ratified by both governments, it offers a framework for improved cooperation and collaboration between our two countries, including in education and tourism services,” she said.
Many infrastructure projects are also going to hit the island, connecting some tourist areas. In its tourism development master plan, West Nusa Tenggara province has chosen at least five potential areas that offer beautiful, charming and exotic panoramas on Lombok, including Kuta Mandalika and surrounding area, Senggigi and the three Gilis, Rasimas-Sembalun and the surrounding area, Mataram and the surrounding area and Alabutan and surrounding area.
Along with Lombok Island, the master plan also includes seven potential tourist areas on Sumbawa Island. Meanwhile, West Nusa Tenggara offers various choices: marine tourism, mountain nature tourism and cultural tourism.
The islands of Lombok and Sumbawa are the two largest in the province, along with 278 islets locally known as the Gilis.
West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zulkieflimansyah said he is highly optimistic about tourism development in his region, especially since a direct flight from Australia is to start operating in June.
“There are many Australians who want to visit Lombok. With the availability of the direct flight, it will be easier for them to reach our region,” he said.
Nowadays, Lombok is mostly known for its three famous Gili islands, namely Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Many foreigners, especially Australians, visit the island via Bali. Following the opening of Lombok International Airport, some direct flights have been planned.
Zulkieflimansyah said that his administration would ensure that the province was investor friendly. “We should change our bureaucracy to facilitate investors and make them comfortable as they are also keen to build many facilities in West Nusa Tenggara,” he said, adding that investment was important to boost the local economy.
Francesco Bruno, the president director of PT Autore Pearl Culture, an Australia-based company that has been cultivating south sea pearls in Lombok, Sumbawa and Java for the past 22 years, said there had been much progress in the region in terms of how the local administration treats investors.
“Now, they have become more transparent to investors. There are still some problems; [it is] not as easy as we hope. However, I’ve seen much positive progress,” he said.
Recognizing the potential growth of tourism in Lombok, Autore Pearl Culture has also started an educational tourism program that allows tourists to see how the pearls were made.
“We will invest more in Lombok in the near future. I'm completely optimistic about Lombok tourism,” Bruno added.
Ricky Baheramsjah, the head of investment and marketing at the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), said he is also optimistic about Lombok tourism. The ITDC is a state-owned company that has successfully built and managed The Nusa Dua, a 350 ha integrated tourism estate on Bali. This is the company currently developing the Mandalika.
“When we started on Lombok, the challenges were similar to what Nusa Dua was 40 to 45 years ago,” he said, adding that accessibility, amenities and human resources were among the key challenges.
However, Ricky said there have been many infrastructure developments on the island. The locals can also see how tourism benefits their personal wealth.
“Because at the end of the day, we provide jobs and at the end of the day, I think this is what people truly want: to be able to provide for their families, to give a future to their children as well,” he said, adding that the ITDC was also keen to develop areas outside the Mandalika. (kes)