hotspot for mass tourism developed

While People Are Talking About Climate Protection, a New Hotspot for Mass Tourism is Being Developed Here

Starting on Tuesday, the G20 summit will take place in the vacation paradise of Bali. Host Indonesia has an ambitious strategy for the all-important tourism sector: “Ten new Balis” are to be built. Satellite images from the neighboring island of Lombok show how vehemently investors and authorities are pushing through the mega-projects.

“Economy from above” is a collaboration between WirtschaftsWoche and LiveEO. This is a translation of the original article written in German by “Ben Mendelson“. Access the original article here.

What a contradiction: When the G20 summit is held on the Indonesian island of Bali from Tuesday, the heads of state will presumably discuss climate protection as well as security policy in the wake of the world climate conference. At the same time, the neighboring island of Lombok is being developed into a new hotspot for mass tourism amid criticism from locals and non-governmental organizations. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, who is also attending the G20 summit, wants to create “ten new Balis” to boost tourism in his country even more.

Construction sites for wellness hotels and villas, an enlarged beach resort, a new mosque in the old style and a race track for the Motorcycle World Championship: Exclusive satellite images from LiveEO show the strong changes on the island of Lombok. And each of the image series demonstrates how rabidly and quickly the island has been transformed in recent years.

Bali’s neighboring island of Lombok was once a relatively undeveloped area that mainly attracted surfers – and recently gained sad notoriety due to strong earthquakes. Since 2016, Lombok has been one of the islands that Indonesia’s government wants to transform into “ten new Balis. President Widodo wants the country, which is already heavily dependent on tourism, to focus even more on the travel industry. Among other things, more visitors are to come from nearby China.

A half-hour ferry ride from Bali and the G20 summit, an island is thus being completely transformed along Bali’s lines. This is a burden not least on the locals and the environment, criticize those affected, UN human rights experts and non-governmental organizations. But what exactly is the government planning on Lombok?

  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2016
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2017
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2018
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2019
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2020
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2021
  • Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort 2022

Images: LiveEO/Pleiades

The centerpiece of the transformation of Lombok is the Mandalika Resort in the south of the island. Satellite images show how a huge hotel complex is gradually being built. The Mandalika Resort, Lombok’s $3 billion project, is considered the largest project of its kind in Southeast Asia. It is designed as a special economic zone that is expected to attract 20 million tourists a year and is lined with numerous hotels, a professional track for motorcycle racing and many beaches.

Among other things, a theme park, a water park, a marina, a lagoon and a golf course are also planned for the area. The resort covers more than 1,000 hectares. This is roughly twice the area of Berlin’s old Tegel Airport.

Since 2016, the transformation of Lombok has been driven by the state government, local authorities and private developers. And construction work in the special economic zone will continue for more than a decade, they say.

Eventually, Mandalika will have more than 10,000 hotel rooms. Guests can already check into one of the 257 rooms in the Pullman Mandalika Beach Resort. Rooms in the five-star hotel are available online from 100 euros per night, and bookings are made in German via a sales partner.

The hotel is located directly on the Indian Ocean and has a “wellness center. Whereas three years ago there was hardly any upscale accommodation in the region, luxury hotels with spas and sea views now line the Mandalika Resort.

Those who vacation here, however, will probably have to leave their clear conscience at home: Locals report forced evictions and expropriations. Many have only been partially compensated for their land, they say.

This even called UN human rights experts to the scene. They published a report in 2021 in which they criticized the land theft and demanded improvements from the government in Jakarta. Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said at the time: “Farmers and fishermen were forced off their land and had to endure the destruction of their homes, fields and water sources, as well as their cultural and religious sites.

People have been threatened and “evicted from their land without compensation,” in some cases without prior notice from the authorities, he said. “Large-scale tourism development that tramples on human rights is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of sustainable development,” De Schutter said. The state-owned tourism company ITDC denied the allegations, stating that human rights and environmental protection were taken into account.

  • MotoGP Race Track 2015
  • MotoGP Race Track 2017
  • MotoGP Racetrack 2019
  • MotoGP Race Track 2020
  • MotoGP Race Track 2021
  • MotoGP Race Track 2022

Images: LiveEO/SPOT, LiveEO/Google Earth

Thus, in February, there were also protests by locals on the occasion of the inauguration of a MotoGP race track, which is also located in Mandalika Resort. MotoGP is the motorcycle world championship that tours the planet in a similar way to Formula 1 – and is now also making a stop on Lombok. Construction of the track began in 2019, with the first races taking place in November 2021. Before the MotoGP debut in the spring, locals gathered for several demonstrations against the development in Lombok, from which they feel excluded.

In one protest, according to media reports, several hundred youths took part, burning tires near the race track. However, the protests, in which cab drivers also participated, were not about the expropriations: The locals were demanding to be employed as part of the upcoming races and, for example, to be used as drivers for the event.

At the motorcycle race in February, the reactions of some riders also testified to the fact that the Indonesian island may not be the best place for the race track. At almost 45 degrees Celsius in the air – and 65 degrees on the asphalt – they agonized over the track. Rider Aleix Espargaro: “These are values at which it starts to become dangerous both for the body, but also for the material”.

Although Indonesia’s population is considered motorcycle-crazy, the comparison with the Emirate of Qatar, where the World Cup will be held from the end of November, is obvious here – in desert heat in air-conditioned stadiums.

As quickly as the racetrack went up after the government’s tourism mega-plans became known, construction work for new hotels and residential areas on Lombok is also underway:

  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2013
  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2016
  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2017
  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2019
  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2021
  • Construction site for hotels and lodges 2022

Images: LiveEO/Pleiades

It is said that half a million jobs should be created on the island in the coming years as a result of the construction work and tourists. While in many places the work on building plots and residential buildings is still in progress, numerous companies are already offering villas for sale or rent.

Realtors rave about the “dream of owning a little piece of paradise.” Depending on the size and features of the villa and its proximity to the beach, purchase prices start in the low six-figure dollar range. Whether the previous owners were compensated for their land or expropriated without compensation is admittedly not stated by the marketing agencies.

LiveEO’s satellite images also show how a mosque was built within a short time:

  • Nurul Bilad Mosque 2013
  • Nurul Bilad Mosque 2016
  • Nurul Bilad Mosque 2017
  • Nurul Bilad Mosque 2019
  • Nurul Bilad Mosque 2022

Images: LiveEO/Pleiades

With 1500 seats for worshippers, the Nurul Bilad Mosque is tiny compared to the largest mosques in Indonesia. Nevertheless, it is expected to become a tourist attraction within a short time, especially due to its architecture, which is reminiscent of historic mosques from Lombok’s north and is supposed to have an authentic appearance – although construction work on the mosque only began after President Widodo launched the “10 New Balis” campaign in 2016.

A trip through Muslim Indonesia may be a spiritual experience even for agnostics. However, tourism in the mega-projects like Lombok is far from sustainable. This is not least due to the numerous evictions and expropriations of locals. And also, if increasingly allegedly ecological journeys on Lombok are marketed: The island has had a massive plastic problem for years.

This is likely to get worse rather than better as a result of increasing tourism on the once quite isolated island. Before the pandemic, for example, the number of tourists from China in Indonesia climbed to unimagined heights. And the tourism minister has been soliciting Chinese investment for new tourism projects for years.

Environmentalists also criticized Rinca Island, which is also part of the government’s tourism plans. For the entertainment of tourists there is a park modeled on the dinosaur movie “Jurassic Park”. For this purpose, some of the last living giant lizards, Komodo dragons, were transported to the national park. Critics fear that their natural habitat could be restricted. They accuse the government of subordinating the animals’ lives to ambitious plans for new tourism hotspots.

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