Development of the Komodo Airport has been discussed in Jakarta recently by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), East Nusa Tenggara Governor Frans Lebu Raya, and relevant ministers.
In order to meet the international standard, East Nusa Tenggara Creative Industry and Tourism Office Chief Marius Ardu Jelamu remarked in the provincial city of Kupang on Monday that the runway of Komodo Airport will soon be extended to 2,200 meters.
The extension of the runway of Komodo Airport was constrained by the land acquisition of the local community, but now it has been negotiated with the land owners to extend it to 2,200 meters this year.
"When the runway of Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo has been extended to make it an international airport, it will automatically serve international flights to ease foreign tourists coming to East Nusa Tenggara," Jelamu said.
The Malaysia-based low cost carrier AirAsias has planned to serve the Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Labuan Bajo route starting in 2017, and the turning of Komodo into international airport will have a positive impact on the flow of tourists to East Nusa Tenggara through the entry point of Labuan Bajo.
AirAsias new service will facilitate more foreign tourists to visit Labuan Bajo and the leading destinations in the province of East Nusa Tenggara.
Among the tourist attractions in tge orivubce, Labuan Bajo remains a leading destination for both local and foreign tourists.
Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores Island, which has been named one of the 10 main tourist destinations in Indonesia, is a gateway for foreign tourists to other destinations in NTT.
Offering a wide range of tourist facilities, the West Manggarai district town of Labuan Bajo remains a world famous tourist destination in Indonesia.
Labuan Bajo is a launch point for both local and international tourists to explore the islands interiors and visit the giant dragons of Komodo on Rinca Island.
In recent years, Labuan Bajo has gradually transformed into a busy spot due to the presence of divers and an increase in the number of visitors to Komodo. In the coming years, the area will continue to be a top tourist destination owing to the wide range of tourism facilities it offers.
Based on the results of a poll conducted by the Ministry of Tourism, Labuan Bajo received an award recognizing it as the most preferred international tourist destination. The award was presented by the tourism minister in Jakarta in early December 2016.
The winner was selected after a rigorous evaluation process that involved viewing all worldwide tourism records and comparing them with those in Labuan Bajo.
An indicator supporting the award came from a survey conducted by CNN, which stated that Labuan Bajo is the worlds second-best snorkeling site after Raja Ampat in West Papua.
Labuan Bajo has several tourist destinations, including Pede Beach, the stone mirrors, Rinca Island and its dragons, and the snake cave, which have always attracted tourists from around the world.
East Nusa Tenggara indeed needs direct international flights to support its plan to boost its tourism industry.
Jelamu said no direct international flights are available to and from NTT to facilitate transport of foreign tourists to the province.
"The number of foreign tourists visiting the province last year was much smaller than that of domestic tourists," he noted.
He said that of the 882,395 tourist arrivals in the province in 2016, only 112,433 constituted foreign tourists.
According to him, the number of foreign tourists could easily increase if the province can offer two-way direct international flights.
The province, which comprises several small islands, is no less attractive than other tourist destinations in the country or even the world, he said, pointing to Labuan Bajo just across Komodo Island, one of the wonders of the world, with its ancient lizards.
"Bali is crowded with foreign tourists, as visitors to the resort island have access to direct international flights," he stated.
Hence, he called on the provincial administration to continue to coordinate with the central government to open direct international flights to and from any of the potential cities in the province.
East Nusa Tenggara is blessed with at least eight natural wonders that must be developed optimally to boost the local economy and tourism.
These natural wonders are Semana Santa in Larantuka, Nihiwatu Beach on Sumba Island, Alor Dive on Alor Island, Nemberalla Beach in Rote Ndao, Komodo Island, the Pink Beach on Padar Island, Taman 17 on Riung Island, and the tricolored lakes of Mount Kelimutu.
Tourist attractions in the province have been promoted extensively by the local government, tourism department, relevant agencies, and private parties.
East Nusa Tenggara has high tourism potential and will continue to be promoted intensively, so that both local and foreign tourists visiting the area can witness and enjoy the tourist attractions at various districts in the province.
With the extension of Komodo airports runway to sever international flights, Jelamu expressed optimism that the number of tourist arrivals in East Nusa Tenggara will reach more than one million in 2017.(*)