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A much anticipated hospitality forum attracting recognized global investors and developers to ponder the future of Lombok tourism, has ended with Indonesia's Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy pledging support for what she called "Brand Lombok."
Tourism and Creative Economy Minster, Mari Elka Pangestu, didn't guess what precisely that brand might be, but when she put the word and the island in the same sentence, her meaning was clear. "The vision shared by participants highlights the need of Lombok's evolving tourism industry to thrive by adopting a sustainable approach and creating 'Brand Lombok'."
Another speaker chimed in. "Brands, both domestic and international, help legitimize a destination in the minds of the larger market," said Matt Gebbie, Pacific Asia director for the worldwide hospitality consultancy Horwath HTL. "A well-recognized brand associated with a resort development in a relatively new destination assists acceptance and alleviates quality concerns."
Dr. Frans Teguh, Director of Destination Design and Tourism Investment for the government of Indonesia, noted that West Nusa Tenggara, was already well on its way, recording "more than 11% of foreign direct investment in Indonesia in tourism in 2013. Current projects underway, and being planned, point only in one direction, "up."
Business is trending in the right direction said to H. Lalu Gita Hariyadi, Head of Culture and Tourism for West Nusa Tenggara: "We understand how important it is for the West Nusa Tenggara Governor's Office to promote Lombok culture as its own unique brand, culturally and geographically, distinctions that provide a fantastic base to build upon."
Gebbie reported, "Tourism Solutions International (TSI) research indicates that a decade from now, the southern Lombok area will outstrip the northwest in terms of number of new deluxe and luxury hotel rooms. By 2022, the hotel room supply in Lombok will certainly double from current levels."
"The critical success factor for resort destinations should be 'access, access, access' or, more generally, 'infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure'," said Gebbie. "While the proportion of chain to non-chain in Lombok is on par with other more established regional comparisons such as Koh Samui, Phuket and Bali, the actual number is much smaller. To incorporate all the success factors into Lombok 2022 and beyond, government assistance is required."
In a regional comparison with other travel destinations, Lombok predictably fell behind mature resorts like Bali and Phuket as well as Cebu, Boracay, Krabi and Koh Samui, described by Horwarth as "semi-established destinations still undergoing rapid expansion." Lombok was called an "emerging destination," along with Nha Trang, Langkawi and Da Nang.
The forum, organized by TSI, a Singapore-based hospitality firm, and hosted by Qunci Villas, brought together current and prospective owners of hotels and other tourism projects in Lombok, along with domestic and foreign investors with proven interest in the island's future. Thirty percent of Lombok hotel owners were in attendance at the event.
"With limited research in the market," said TSI director Eric Levy, "we decided gathering a number of people 'in the know' would provide the initiative to leading more industry people to review the market and make available their views on the potential and keys to the sustainable evolution of tourism in Lombok."
It was a theme returned to time and again. "As tourism development is still in its infancy in Lombok," Horwath reported, "the opportunity exists to create a world-renowned sustainable destination tourism in balance with nature and the indigenous culture. This will help Lombok differentiate itself and compete more effectively with neighboring Bali."
Lombok's Mandalika Resort, now under development by the operators of Bali's long-established Nusa Dua Resort, was cited for its plan to include in its 1,175-hectare multi-dimensional project, a solar power plant that will utilize the land beneath the solar panels as a greenhouse for growing organic crops.
Two speakers put Lombok into a larger perspective, one geographical and the other historical. Daniel Miller, head of the Bali office for Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate investment services company, said that in a market still dominated by investment funds and private equity, Asia Pacific had its most active year (in relation to the volume of hotel transactions) in 2013 since the boom in 2007. While neighboring Bali had its best year ever, with 3.3 million arrivals.
In another forecast, Bill Barnett, founder and managing director of C9 Hotelworks, said, "One of the clearest lessons learned over the past two decades in the Big Two - Phuket and Bali - is that tourism paved the way for real estate. The horse that drove the cart was the destination brand created by loyal returning holiday visitors."
In wealthier, mature markets, Barnett said, property buyers wanted marinas, accommodation for private aircraft, golf courses and international health care, along with high standard retail shops. "Over the next few years the real estate offerings that are likely to succeed in Lombok will be hotels for the simple fact that this is where the current market demand is now. "More hotels," he said. "Then comes the demand for holiday homes and rentals. The cycle has begun and Lombok could be one of Asia's most dynamic leisure property stories in the decade ahead."
The Lombok Forum was held at the island's most recognized resort, the 2013 World Travel Awards winner for Best Resort Indonesia, Qunci Villas, located on Manggsit Beach. The event included a dinner prepared by Christian Tetedoie, regularly lauded as Lyon's top chef.