Let’s Wake Up to Our Future: An Exclusive Interview with LHA Chairman Stephane Servin.

Achievements, Opportunities & Challenges of Lombok Tourism

Senggigi, Lombok, June 29 2012: LHA chairman Stephane Servin, general manager of The Santosa at Senggigi, has called for more serious support from local authorities for controlled development of Lombok tourism before potential community benefits are lost.

Recently back from the industry-acclaimed 25th Korean World Travel Fair (KOFTA), Servin outlined LHA efforts to promote tourism, aired his frustration at impediments to appropriate government action and shared his expectations and fears for the industry’s future.

Healthy, controlled tourism development was crucial to the region as it would create direct employment for Lombok’s growing population and generate spin-off jobs in industries such as transport, construction, distribution and retail, he said.

“It also is a chance for a culture and population to be recognized and appreciated internationally and can be an instrument for promoting handicrafts, arts and cultural heritage. Good tourism can be our best ambassador.

“Properly managed and marketed tourism will generate community income, identity and pride as well as regional revenue to maintain cultural heritage at sites and events.

“Unfortunately Lombok is failing to realise its true potential, and advantages for everyone are being lost when tourism clearly is the best and easiest path to progress and economic improvement for Lombok.”

Servin outlined major issues in other industries, which gave tourism its lead. Gold and copper mining, while potentially revenue rich, was associated with major environmental concerns; agriculture was hamstrung by limited land and poor quality product; fish and prawn farming could not meet high rates of local tax; and industrial sea farming projects were impeded by regulation.

“No sector has the potential to create as much direct employment and generate supporting businesses as tourism.”

Servin said local government continued to allocate insufficient funds to produce adequate and appropriate tourism promotional material. “It appears tourism is not given priority status in budget allocations.

“True, we have seen a few Visit Lombok Sumbawa 2012 banners in Mataram, but they seem to target only local tourists.”

LHA had over the past year worked closely with the National Government’s Tourism Ministry.

This year LHA had represented Lombok at 10 international travel industry events and would attend a further eight. A Lombok blog site would be created for visitors to share their experiences and images. It would be linked to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Contemporary presentation material would be developed to meet the needs of guests and potential visitors.

LHA was working with the Agriculture and Cooperative Services Department to achieve improved supply of relevant food products to hotels and restaurants. “We need better supply of quality products at more competitive costs so we can provide a really great value-for-money experience.”

Servin expressed frustration at impediments to tourism growth such as the stalled southern Mandalika project in which “almost nothing has moved in 10 years.”

He called for greater effort to secure new flights, new airlines and higher seat capacity at Lombok’s new international airport.

“We have safety and security issues with villages around the airport trying to dictate how a provincial asset and international aviation facility should be operated.

“It is strange to focus on avoiding conflict with a few hundred people around the airport when hundreds of billions have been invested and while the economic welfare of tens of thousands of people and future investment in the trillions of rupiah are at risk.”

Servin urged local authorities to have higher regard for Lombok tourism as a serious business. “Land issues must be sorted out for new projects and support for investors must be real and consistent.”

Servin said LHA was grateful for limited support from the West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provincial administration but encouraged it “to find a way” to actively promote tourism in a contemporary style.

LHA investment in tourism promotion had created jobs for thousands and deserved full local government support. “Tourist facilities must be improved. Promotion must be serious and relevant. Industry employees must be educated.

“People with experience and knowledge should be placed in government tourism positions. This is common business sense.

“We have very serious challenges but much can be done, especially by local government, to realise tourism’s true benefits to our communities and to the economy.”

∞ LHA is a member-only association of Lombok and Gili (islands) three-to-five star hotels and resorts.