Lombok quake sends shudders through tourist industry

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on August 5 levelled tens of thousands of homes, mosques and businesses across Lombok. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2018

Lombok quake sends shudders through tourist industry

  • Lombok’s airport was briefly crammed with holidaymakers rushing to get flights out
  • Indonesians are used to natural disasters and its tourism industry has bounced back from catastrophes in the past

SENGGIGI, Indonesia: The powerful earthquakes that struck the Indonesian island of Lombok in recent weeks killing some 400 people have sent holidaymakers fleeing, raising questions about how its lucrative tourism sector will bounce back.
Two deadly tremors a week apart — accompanied by dozens of aftershocks — wrought widespread damage on homes and livelihoods, striking during the crucial tourism season, when hotels, local businesses and seasonal workers earn the bulk of their annual revenue.
In the Gili Islands, a popular backpacker and diving destination just off Lombok’s northern coast, thousands of terrified tourists jostled on powder-white beaches for departing boats.
Lombok’s airport was briefly crammed with holidaymakers rushing to get flights out, while the main tourist drag of Senggigi has been left deserted.
Alfan Hasandi depended on peak season tourists to see his family through the rest of the year. He and his brothers ran a now shuttered business on one of the islands, Gili Air, offering boat tickets, snorkeling, trekking and vehicle rentals, usually earning five million rupiah ($350) a day during peak season.
“We hope we can rebuild... but it’s impossible because people are still traumatized,” the 25-year-old told AFP. “Our homes have been completely destroyed... We don’t have money to rebuild, we need help.”
Located in the one of the most tectonically active areas in the world, Indonesians are used to natural disasters and its tourism industry has bounced back from catastrophes in the past.
But for Lombok, the quakes struck at an especially cruel time, when the island’s tourism industry was on the way up.
Dubbed “The Island of a Thousand Mosques,” Muslim-majority Lombok was always a path less traveled destination than its bigger neighbor Bali, the Hindu-majority island that forms the backbone of Indonesia’s $19.4 billion tourist sector.
But it had been earmarked as one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s “10 new Balis” with the regional government hoping to develop it into a major destination, especially in the booming halal tourism sector.
Its residents now have to repair and rebuild, hoping that spooked tourists return.
Senggigi would normally be bustling with visitors this time of year. Now boats lie idle along its main beach, restaurants and hotels have been shuttered on its main drag and the usual stream of touts offering services has dried up.
“We don’t know whether we can operate again in September,” Susi Hayati, manager of the Asmara restaurant, told AFP.
Ketut Jaya, manager of the nearby Holiday Resort Lombok, said it might be a month before they could start taking guest bookings again. Just 19 of the resort’s 189 rooms were occupied by hardy tourists who decided not to leave after the quake.
Authorities estimate the damage unleashed by the two quakes on buildings and infrastructure on Lombok will exceed two trillion rupiah ($138 million).
But while the post-quake images of destruction and departing tourists were dramatic, analysts predict tourism in the region will recover after short-term pain.
Indonesia’s tourism sector has been robust in the face of major crises before, including natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami and terror attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings.
“The impact is not as big as a tsunami and the (Lombok) airport is still open,” Tedjo Iskandar, a Jakarta-based travel analyst with TTC Travel Mart, told AFP.
Asnawi Bahar, chairman of Indonesia’s tour and travel agency association, described the earthquake as a “temporary shock” for the sector.
The number of visitors to Bali plummeted following the 2002 bombings, which targeted a nightclub and bar frequented by Western tourists. The attacks killed more than 200 people and shocked the world.
But the island soon regained its status as one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations.
That is little comfort for people like Vina Kartika, who used to work on Gili Trawangan, where one of her friends was killed in the quake, and has currently lost her seasonal tourism job.
“I will now have to stay at home, doing nothing,” she said.
On Gili Air island, some hotels were flattened but others survived. A diving school was barricaded with wood panels and furniture to keep intruders out. A supermarket in the middle of the island was completely empty, its windows broken.
Hasandi said he is trying to remain upbeat, and he said lessons can be learned from the Bali’s recovery.
“People were scared back then but then came back,” he said. “This is a natural disaster, so it should be OK — God willing.”


Oil up after drone attack on Saudi field, but OPEC report caps gains

Updated 51 min 43 sec ago

Oil up after drone attack on Saudi field, but OPEC report caps gains

LONDON: Crude oil prices rose on Monday following a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility by Yemen’s Houthi militia and as traders looked for signs of progress in US-China trade negotiations.
Price gains were, however, capped to some degree by an unusually downbeat OPEC report that stoked concerns about growth in oil demand.
Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, was up 85 cents, or about 1.4%, at $59.49 a barrel at 1225 GMT.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up $1.01, or 1.8%, at $55.88 a barrel.
A drone attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on an oilfield in eastern Saudi Arabia on Saturday caused a fire at a gas plant, adding to Middle East tensions, but state-run Saudi Aramco said oil production was not affected.
“The oil market seems to be pricing in again a geopolitical risk premium following the weekend drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the premium might not sustain if it does not result in any supply disruptions,” said Giovanni Staunovo, oil analyst for UBS.
Iran-related tensions appeared to ease after Gibraltar released an Iranian tanker it seized in July, though Tehran warned the United States against any new attempt to seize the tanker in open seas.
Concerns about a recession also limited crude price gains.
Meanwhile, China’s announcement of key interest rate reforms over the weekend has fueled expectations of an imminent reduction in corporate borrowing costs in the struggling economy, boosting share prices on Monday.
US energy firms this week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the first time in seven weeks despite plans by most producers to cut spending on new drilling this year.
“WTI in recent weeks has performed relatively better than Brent... Pipeline start ups in the United States have been supportive for WTI, while the ongoing trade war has had more of an impact on Brent,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at Dutch bank ING.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10 million bpd and indicated the market would be in slight surplus in 2020.
It is rare for OPEC to give a bearish forward view on the market outlook.
“Such a bearish prognosis will heap more pressure on OPEC to take further measures to support the market,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.