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.”


Saudi finance minister reassures public on taxes

Updated 10 December 2019

Saudi finance minister reassures public on taxes

  • Mohammed Al-Jadaan: There will be no more fees and taxes until after the financial, economic and social impacts have been considered carefully
  • The government expects to generate about SR203 billion in taxes this year – more than 20.5 percent higher than the previous year

RIYADH: Saudi finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan pledged that there would be no more taxes or fees introduced in the Kingdom until the social and economic impact of such a move had been fully reviewed.

He was speaking at the 2020 Budget Meeting Sessions, organized by the Ministry of Finance and held in Riyadh on Tuesday, where a number of ministers and senior officials gathered following the publication of the budget on Monday evening.

“There will be no more fees and taxes until after the financial, economic and social impacts have been considered carefully, especially in terms of economic competitiveness,” said Al-Jadaan.

The government expects to generate about SR203 billion in taxes this year – more than 20.5 percent higher than the previous year and more than 10 percent higher than the expected budget for this year. 

Most of that increase has come from taxes on goods and services which rose substantially as a result of the improvement in economic activity over the year.

The reassurances from the minister come as the Saudi budget deficit is estimated to widen to about SR187 billion, next year, or about 6.4 percent of GDP.