Revamp to make Labuan Bajo fit for ‘premium tourists’
The government plans to give Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara and its surroundings a major facelift to turn the area into a prime destination for well-heeled tourists.
Speaking during a visit to East Nusa Tenggara’s Rinca Island on Thursday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he wanted Labuan Bajo and its surroundings developed as an integrated project incorporating the world-renowned Komodo National Park, the natural habitat of the Komodo dragon.
“We want to look at Labuan Bajo and its surrounding areas, including Komodo Island and Rinca Island, from a macro-level [development perspective], so that improvements to infrastructure and supporting facilities in the area would be truly integrated,” said Jokowi.
Komodo Island and Rinca Island are two of the largest islands within the Komodo National Park area.
The town of Labuan Bajo on the western end of Flores Island is one of 10 destinations prioritized for development in the government’s master plan on tourism.
Jokowi said the government would formulate a “grand design” that took into account the capacity of the Komodo National Park – a conservation area – to maintain a balance between tourist business interests and conservation.
The national park was in the spotlight in February when the provincial administration announced its decision to close Komodo Island – which, along with Rinca Island, has the largest Komodo dragon population in the national park – for visitors next year pending an assessment from the Environment and Forestry Ministry over sustainability issues and other concerns.
Jokowi said it was likely that Komodo Island would be exclusively reserved for conservation purposes, which would limit the number of visitors allowed on the island, while Rinca Island would have a higher visitor quota than Komodo Island.
He added that the government planned to develop Labuan Bajo and its surrounding area into a prime tourist destination that would attract “premium tourists”.
In response to the President’s initiative, East Nusa Tenggara Governor Viktor Laiskodat said regional authorities would ensure that any business licenses issued suit the needs of high-class tourists.
However, he said the regional administration would also encourage the development of “community-based tourism” to ensure that local residents could also grab a slice of the tourism pie.
“The regional administration will make preparations to empower local residents, so that they can welcome more [visitors],” said Viktor.
The development of tourism in Labuan Bajo includes a runway and terminal expansion of Komodo Airport and the construction of a new retail and community center in Waringin peak, which overlooks Labuan Bajo Port.
The seaport itself was also expected to get a facelift to accommodate yachts and other tourist vessels, while the port’s current trading activities would be moved elsewhere, Jokowi said, adding that he expected the full development of Labuan Bajo and its surroundings to be completed within two or three years.
The government has identified Labuan Bajo, along with Toba Lake in North Sumatra, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java, as tourist destinations for fast-tracked development.
The number of visitors to Labuan Bajo and its surroundings within West Manggarai regency has been steadily increasing. The regency welcomed 76,645 domestic and international tourists in 2017, up from 54,758 visitors in 2016, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data.
Viktor said he expected Labuan Bajo to welcome up to 100,000 visitors following the improvements to tourism facilities in the area.