Post Earthquake Tourism Recovery Lombok
The August 5, 2018 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks which struck the Eastern Indonesian island of Lombok have have killed at least 430 people and have caused significant damage to buildings and transport infrastructure. Some of the aftershocks have registered close to 6 on the Richter scale occured in recent days have added to already high levels of destruction from the original 6.9 quake.
Some media reports claimed that some tourism and hospitality businesses, concerned about the loss of tourism to the island are calling for tourists to come back and visit. While its perfectly understandable that hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafes, bars and attractions want to see tourists and their livelihoods restored to pre-quake levels, destination recovery after a large- scale natural disaster cannot be instant.
The global tourism industry has been forced to learn a great deal in recent years about the destination recovery process after major earthquakes. The Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami of 2004, Japan’s Tokhuro earthquake tsunami of 2011, The Christchurch earthquake of 2011 and Nepal’s Ghorka earthquake of 2015 represent just a few of the many tourism destinations which have been severely affected by earthquakes. If I can give our Lombok colleagues a glimmer of hope, all the disasters I mentioned have been followed up by spectacular recoveries in tourism- over a few years.
On 2016/10/09 I wrote an article for ETB Travelnews which focussed on the ten commandments of tourism recovery. This was not my wisdom but that of Mr Sandy Hollway who led some impressive tourism post disaster tourism recoveries in Australia.
The most important thing for our travel industry colleagues in Lombock to understand is that tourists will not be rushing back to Lombock immediately until they are confident that the earthquake threat has passed. Hopefully, the Indonesian government, Indonesia’s regional neigbours and the global tourism community will support Lombock with the same commitment they demonstrated in supporting other destinations which have experienced earthquakes. I have been fortunate enough to have witnessed this in Nepal, Christchurch, Thailand and Japan.
At this early stage, what travel professionals need most are facts. What infrastructure is operating and what is not and if not when. As is always the case with natural disasters, most media will focus on blood, gore and ruin and create the perception that all of Lombok is a damaged wasteland. Most importantly, until the local community is ready to extend a welcoming hand to tourists the current priority for Lombock is rescue, tending to casualties, relief and repair.
As we have experienced in Nepal, Japan, Christchurch and Thailand after earthquake related crises, tourists are willing to show their support and solidarity to help in the recovery of these destinations. However, the timing has to be right. The true guide to the timing is the readiness of the local community to welcome tourists in their midst following a disater which has caused death , destruction and misery for thousands.