The earthquake, which struck NTB, a neighbor of Indonesia`s most popular tourist island of Bali, has until Wednesday (Aug 8) taken the lives of 131 victims.
Hence, the government hopes that the natural disaster would not affect the country`s tourism. In response to it, Tourism Crisis Management Head of the Ministry of Tourism Dessy Ruhati said on Monday that her side has held coordination with the regional government of NTB.
The Ministry of Tourism assured that the tourism of Lombok and Bali islands remain conducive post the powerful earthquake, Ruhati stated.
"We encourage tourists to remain calm and alert and follow the guidance provided by the government. Information will continuously be upgraded and its sources should always come from official agencies, such as the Meteorology, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), and BNPB (National Disaster Mitigation Agency)," she noted.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya activated his ministry`s Crisis Center Team to monitor the latest developments in Lombok.
In the meantime, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has highlighted the need to lay greater focus on services offered to tourists vacationing in Lombok after the earthquake hit on Sunday (Aug 5) 2018.
In order to provide security and safeguard foreign guests, particularly tourists, all foreign tourists have been evacuated from North Lombok.
Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto confirmed that no foreign tourists were killed in the tourism areas of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno.
"The rumors are not true. People were killed, but they were not foreign visitors. They were citizens and local workers," he stated during a visit to the Bangsal harbor in North Lombok on Tuesday (Aug 7).
He affirmed that all tourists, both domestic and international, had been evacuated out of the three islands, and that no reports had been received of any foreign tourists being killed.
"Of course, there were several people there, but as a matter of fact, the people, who were killed, were those who actually worked there," he clarified.
In order to maintain the conduciveness of the country`s tourism in Lombok, the Ministry of Tourism is preparing a recovery program for a number of tourist sites in Lombok, Sumbawa, and Bali which were damaged by the earthquake.
"We will carry out a recovery program in a number of tourist sites (in Lombok), housings, and hotels. If the emergency response status ends in the next three weeks, we will do the recovery," Yahya explained on Tuesday.
According to him, the ministry has three programs to overcome the impacts of the earthquake that shook Lombok Island and its surroundings, namely building a crisis center to provide information, providing services to tourists, and recovering tourist sites.
"This morning, we have managed to evacuate 200 tourists, with the help of the Indonesian Defense Forces and the Police, from Gili Islands to safe locations. We hope the evacuation would be complete today, so that all foreign tourists can be transferred to Lombok first; from there to three main destinations, namely Bali, Jakarta, and Surabaya (East Java); and then to their respective countries," Yahya explained.
The minister could not ascertain whether there were tourists still trapped at a tourist site. Six tourists from Greece were stranded on a hill until Monday night (Aug 6) after they feared the occurrence of a tsunami after the earthquake.
"This incident is likely to disrupt the schedule of foreign tourists. On July 29, during the first earthquake, there were around 100 thousand foreign tourists leaving some tourist sites. In the past, when Mount Agung in Bali erupted, around one million tourists left Bali," Yahya remarked.
Therefore, the government needs strategies to maintain its tourism development and encourage foreign tourists to continue visiting the country.
Jokowi, since the onset of his government, has set a gradual increase of foreign tourist arrivals from 9.4 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2019.
The government was able to meet its targets of 10 million in 2015 and 12 million in 2016. Yet, in 2017, the arrival of foreign tourists in the country was recorded at only 14.04 million, lower than the target set at 15 million.
This year, the government must work all out to reach its target of 17 million foreign tourist arrivals, including its target of 20 million arrivals next year.
Data issued by the Ministry of Tourism indicated that the number of foreign tourist arrivals from January to May this year was recorded at 6,166,109. Although this figure showed an increase by 11.89 percent compared to the arrivals in the same period in 2017, it seems the government has to work hard to achieve its target of 17 million tourists.
Therefore, the government is implementing three special programs to achieve its target of attracting 17 million foreign tourists this year.
Yahya stated in Jakarta on Thursday that the three programs are incentives provided for airlines and wholesalers, Hot Deals Visit Wonderful Indonesia, and Competing Destination Model.
These are viewed as being breakthroughs adopted in a bid to encourage airline operators and attract foreign tourists to visit Indonesia.
Therefore, the earthquake would hopefully not discourage foreign tourists from visiting Indonesia.
Editing by Yoseph