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Lombok is a tourist destination that has often fallen in the shadow of its close neighbour, Bali. However, recently the region has been examined for the potential to emerge as a prominent tourist destination in the near future. A report published by Horwath HTL looks at the critical factors for the future success of Lombok’s tourism industry, particularly in the hotel and resort sector.

One of the most important things to first do is to examine Lombok as a region in order to determine its strengths and weaknesses for hotel and resort development. The Horwath HTL report does this by breaking them into three key categories: geography, economy and climate.

Geography

Lombok is a small island that spans 80 kilometres from its northern point to its most southern point. Its width varies from 50 kilometres at its narrowest to 70 kilometres. The most prominent feature of the Lombok landscape is Mt Rinjani, which is an active volcano that rises to 3,726 metres above sea level.

Economy

The centre of the Lombok economy is the tourism industry as well as copper gold mining. Following this, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries also contribute significantly. The most prevalent produce to come out of these industries are rice, tobacco, corn, soya beans, mung beans and peanuts, as well as vegetables including onions, chillis and garlic from the agricultural industry, while the fisheries contribute through the farming of pearl and seaweed as well as freshwater fishing.

Climate

Sitting just south of the equator, Lombok has a largely tropical climate, experiencing twelve hours of sunshine on most days and consistently warm temperatures. It is the tropical climate that ensures two distinct seasons – a dry and wet season. The wet season gives way to high humidity and low tourism levels while the dry season provides enjoyable conditions that are favoured by tourists and ensures that this time is the busiest on the island.

The second thing the article does is provide a ‘snapshot’ of the tourism sector in Lombok, first looking at the tourism sites and then tourist arrivals.

Tourism sites

The report divides the island into five regions: northern Lombok, southern Lombok, eastern Lombok, western Lombok and central Lombok. The lack of accessibility in the northern region inhibits any major developments, however it appeals to adventurous travellers who have the opportunity to climb Mt Rinjani. Western Lombok of the island has undergone the most tourism development, in particular the coastline, which features popular tourist destination Senggigi and access to the three Gili Islands. This is largely due to its proximity to the former airport and the capital of the island, Mataram. The southern coastline has not received this level of development and the beautiful beaches remain mostly in their natural state. The central and eastern parts of the island are not as popular, however, those seeking out insight into traditional Sasak culture and others travelling to Sumbawa frequent these parts.

BASK: a new eco-resort on Lombok's Gili Meno island

BASK: a new eco-resort on Lombok’s Gili Meno island

Tourism arrivals

Lombok has not received the same level of development that Bali has seen, but this may be due to the fact that development of the island started twenty years later.

Horwath HTL examines the number of foreign arrivals that have been recorded since 1986 to assess the growth in tourism. In 1986 the island saw the arrival of 13,600 foreigners, and this consistently increased every year until 1993 where there were 140,000 recorded arrivals. This growth resulted in the interest of international investors and speculators and the development of new hotels to meet the demand. The Senggigi Beach Hotel in West Nusa Tenggara was the first internationally marketed hotel to open that was of three-star quality or above. This led the way for the opening of additional three- and four-star hotels such as the Sheraton Senggigi Beach.

Following the high levels of 1993, there were thirteen years of minimal growth in foreign tourism arrivals; 1993–2006 saw a 2 percent year over year growth. This was largely due to the hostile environment created by politics, finance and terrorism. After 2006, foreign arrivals again increased steadily before booming in 2010 – the reason for this boom being an influx of supply encouraged by low-cost airlines and overflow from Bali.

2012 saw a boom in domestic tourism of 32 percent

While this was occurring domestic tourism exploded in 2008 with a 29 percent growth in arrivals, and this was followed by consistent growth in 2009, 2010 and 2011. 2012 saw another boom, this time of 32 percent. The Horwath HTL report cites ‘general increases in consumer confidence and domestic consumption and increases in LCC traffic and affordable travel’ as being responsible for this exponential growth.

Being an island, Lombok relies on air travel to bring in tourists; as a result growth in this industry correlates to the growth of tourist arrivals. This has been seen to be true in the past twelve months as more airlines are connecting the island with more international origins, such as Tiger with Singapore, AirAsia with Kuala Lumpur and Jetstar with Perth. However, more recently, Tiger and Jetstar services were suspended due to low capacity, and in response to this AirAsia increased their flights to the island. It has to be noted that on the 7–10 weekly flights a large portion of passengers are Lombok migrant workers.

Sheraton Senggigi Beach, Lombok

Sheraton Senggigi Beach, Lombok

The saturation of the market by budget airlines is both a blessing and a curse. One month a destination can be stimulated from low-cost flights and additional flights and the next it can be damaged from the suspension of operations. This holds the most truth for island destinations.

Domestic flights are also improving with airlines Lion, Garuda, AirAsia, Trans Nusa, Batavia and Wings providing travellers with many options. In addition to air travel, travel by boat from Bali is continuing to grow and become more affordable.

The report next compares Lombok to other resort destinations in the region in the following categories: hotel supply, environment, access, climate, safety, culture, shopping, dining and recreation.

Investing in Lombok

The comparison separates the destinations into three main categories dependent on their scores. Horwath HTL defines the first of these as ‘mature multi-dimensional tourism destinations’. Destinations with high scores, in this case Bali and Phuket, fall into this category. Cebu, Bocaray, Krabi and Koh Samui received lower scores and are ‘semi-established destinations and are still undergoing rapid expansion’. While Nha Trang, Langkawi, Da Nang and Lombok received the lowest scores and are cited as ‘emerging destinations’.Figure 1: 2014 comparisons of regional resort destinations from a traveller’s perspective. Destinations are scored in the categories listed (4: Highest, 1: Lowest). Source: Horwath HTL (year of publication unknown). Lombok 2022: Critical Success Factors for Hotel & Resort Development. The Future of Tourism in Lombok. 1 (1), p6.

The report then discusses Lombok’s position in this table and ranking as an emerging nation within the following critical success factors for Lombok 2022.

Lombok 2022: critical success factors

Due to the widening experience of the traveller and their increased knowledge and exposure to luxury, culture and how they mix together, the resort experience has dramatically changed over recent years. Nowadays resorts are expected to provide a more holistic experience that combines high-end facilities, value for money and interaction with the local environment. The resort can now be viewed as its own complete community. The following subsections are what Horwath HTL has identified as the critical success factors for the development, management and preservation of Lombok as a resort destination.

Environment and sustainability

Lombok can learn from the mistakes of Bali when it comes to the preservation of environment and culture. The presence and conservation of the natural environment is a major factor that influences the reputation and quality of a resort destination. This is because it is now an important aspect in the decision-making process of the new-age traveller.

The conservation of the natural environment is a major factor that influences the reputation of a resort destination

As a result, it is imperative that resort destinations protect and preserve the natural environment around them and that they make a conscientious effort to employ sustainable operational practices. In the above table Lombok scores well in environment, culture and climate but there is always room to grow in these areas. As tourism development is still in the early stages in Lombok, the opportunity exists to create a famously sustainable destination which could be the differentiating point that allows Lombok to compete most effectively with its neighbours.

Culture in Lombok

Preservation of culture and the environment will be critical to Lombok’s success. Image via Garuda Magazine

Access and infrastructure

One of the biggest critical success factors for a resort destination is both its access and infrastructure. For a resort to be successful it is vital that travellers can reach their final destination quickly, conveniently and affordably. The large majority of tourists that are looking for both ease and speed when planning a holiday often overlook destinations that do not cater to this. Initial impressions are vital; therefore Lombok’s airports and ports should be both managed and maintained to the highest standard in order to give tourists a positive first and last impression. To back this up supplementary transport on the ground should follow this standard with a variety of options that offer the visitor ease and convenience. It is also important that the roads are safe and of a high quality with the appropriate infrastructure and signage that is easy to understand by both the locals and tourists.

Visa regulations are another factor that can affect the ease of entry into a destination. Destinations that require a pre-arrival visa are less desirable than those that don’t. Less bureaucracy also encourages tourists who plan trips last minute.

The success of Lombok 2022 relies on the development of basic infrastructure that ensures a constant supply of fresh water and abundant electricity, as well as proper sewage and waste treatment services. In addition to this the area should have a large pool of human resources that are able to staff and provide services to the island. The above table shows that Lombok does well in the access category but can stand to improve in other areas.

Multi-dimensional destination

When picking between two holiday destinations, travellers often use the cultural diversity that is present in the local cuisine, architecture, craft and traditions as a key differentiating point. It is also important that resort destinations offer a large variety of facilities and activities to guests to prompt them to visit again. Combining entertainment with the local customs and history is a way that a resort can offer a unique experience to its visitors and allow them to connect with the destination. To ensure success, Lombok 2022 must be able to accommodate and meet the needs of a variety of market segments throughout the year, from sophisticated travellers looking for luxury to young tourists seeking adventure.

Combining entertainment with local customs is a way that a resort can offer a unique experience to its visitors

Macro vs micro perspective

To achieve a multi-dimensional destination, both macro and micro perspectives are considered. At the macro level a less specific long-term development plan should be created. This should identify what roles tourism infrastructure and nature should play in the overall development and how they should interact. It also involves zoning the destination for different tourism schemes, for example the ‘high-density mass-market tourism zone’ and the ‘low-density luxury beach zone’.

Markets in Lombok.

Cultural diversity on show at markets in Lombok. Image via Lychos Hadi

From there, micro-level development planning is undertaken to create multi-dimensional programs with the tourism schemes identified during macro development. For example, within the low-density luxury beach zone what types of hotels and support facilities (retail shops, attractions, restaurants) should be developed to meet the needs of the tourists who will visit this zone?

Lombok did not rate well in the categories of shopping, dining and recreation. This will need to be addressed to ensure its growth as a successful resort destination.

Branding

Well-known international and domestic brands have the power to make or break a destination in the minds of the bigger market, and this is because it can assist with the acceptance and quality of a new destination on the market. The government and local tourism associations should drive marketing for Lombok 2022, however global brands have the ability to bring in sales, marketing networks and visibility.

Wide range of lodging options

Since 2007 Lombok’s capacity has steadily increased to reach approximately 2,800 rooms. This increase in hotel supply is in progress with the projects that are planned and under construction. While branded hotels in the initial phase are very important to foster tourism in a new destination, there needs to be a variety of accommodation at lower price points to ensure the growth of the area. Destinations need a strong foundation of budget room supply in order to attract the mass market and awareness about the development. As the destination begins to expand and develop there should be a range of lodging offerings at varied price points. Planning the development is the only way to make sure that the correct accommodation is built in the right location with suitable facilities surrounding it in order to attract the right market segments.

Safety and security

In order to attract new visitors and have old ones return, the destination has to have a solid reputation as a safe and secure place. To establish this, destinations should have low crime rates, high security and a positive status amongst domestic and international travellers and the media. Police stations and posts should not just be located in the main tourist areas but also in local town areas. International tourists are also comforted by the presence of internationally recognised hotels. Lombok itself has a history dotted with internal conflict which is still ongoing today between the villages. In the category for safety Lombok received an average rating. If Lombok implemented the security measures mentioned above, a strong emergency response system and hospitals of an international standard then its ranking will improve.

Lombok 2022: destination management team

To be able to incorporate all of the success factors mentioned in this article into Lombok 2022 and beyond, the government needs to create or finance a ‘destination management team’ (DMT). The DMT will be led by the government, supported by the private sector and interested stakeholders and will supervise and manage the planning, development and running of Lombok so that it:

– Represents and promotes Lombok to various stakeholders, for example the government, tourists, hotel operators, investors, staff and local residents.

– Coordinates day-to-day running within Lombok and ensures valuable assets are upheld and protected.

– Ensures the preservation and protection of the environment through sustainable operations and protection activities.

– Ensures independent resorts and entertainment are operating ethically and in fair and beneficial competition with each other to benefit all stakeholders.

– Manages the Lombok 2022 development so that there is involvement of the current investors for the expansion and upgrading of infrastructure, regulation of the zoning for new developments, management of the access and infrastructure and involvement of potential hotel operators and investors on schemes that complement the destination’s positioning.

Financing for the formation and primary master planning of the DMT could be sought from organisations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank or the IMF. Continuous funding for the DMT could be raised through tourism taxes charged to local hotel properties.

Summary

The above report discusses the issues that have been identified by Horwath HTL to be critical success factors for the development of Lombok 2022. To ensure the sustainability of Lombok’s tourism industry and guarantee the future growth of the destination and prosperity of all stakeholders, the following issues must be addressed: environment and sustainability, access and infrastructure, attractions, branding, lodging options and safety and security. It is recommended that to do this a central lobbying group, the Lombok DMT, should be formed so that a coordinated effort ensures that Lombok flourishes in the long term.

Feature image via indonesia.travel