Reviving tourism in East and West Nusa Tenggara: The story of two young tour guides

An ecotourism training helped Resi Budiana and Buharto, two young tour guides in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara, to rise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resi Budiana is one of 53 women in Senaru village, Bayan district, North Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara who rely on Mount Rinjani as a source of income. These women are members of the Rinjani Women Adventure (RWA), which was founded by Katniwati in 1995 to show that women have the capability to manage a mountain trekking business and do not have to be confined to do household chores.

Her income from working with RWA had helped Resi to support her family for years until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. Resi and other RWAs member and residents of Senaru village - one of the entrances to Mount Rinjani hiking track - see their earning fell. In the midst of lower tourist arrivals, Resi decided to take part in the Eco-tourism Development Training held in her village by the Indonesian Ecotourism Foundation (Indecon) in August 2021.

“I was interested in joining RWA in 2017 because I admire the work of Katniwati. Even until now, there are only a few female guides in Mount Rinjani”

said the 32 year-old woman

This training is part of the Employment and Livelihood programme, a joint United Nations (UN) initiative in Indonesia. The joint programme, which targets young and vulnerable groups, received funding from the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).

“Tourism is one of the sectors that has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. We hoped that this ecotourism training can help tourism industry players to recover and present tourism packages and programs that are better, environmentally friendly and attractive after COVID-19,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO National Project Officer in Jakarta.

During the training, Resi and other RWA members learned how to improve the quality of their tourism products and to better adapt to changing market situations due to the pandemic. Resi also learned about making a wide variety of tourism products, including creating virtual tour packages.

“Although I have been with RWA for a long time, my knowledge is still very little In this training, for the first time, I learned about how to develop ecotourism products”

said Resi

After the training, Resi and her colleagues at RWA collaborate with the customary community to improve a village tour package to introduce the daily life of the Sasak people who live in Senaru. She acknowledged that there were many things that must be fixed, especially regarding the implementation of health protocols, sanitation, and waste management.


Dream of Labuan Bajo's son

A similar training was also attended by Muhammad Buharto or Boe, he used to be called in Jakarta in June 2021. Boe, who was born in Sano Nggoang village, Sano Nggoang district, West Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara, works as a tour guide in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the Komodo National Park - one of Indonesia’s main tourism destinations.

Boe is one of the five local champions who were selected to participate in Indecon’s Training of Trainers in Jakarta. These champions were trained to be facilitators to support Indecon in conducting trainings in various locations in West and East Nusa Tenggara.

“After more than three years working as a tourist guide, I do have a huge aspiration to be involved in efforts to further develop the tourism sector. I’m very happy to get the opportunity to learn with Indecon to become facilitator in trainings at the local level,” said Boe.

Boe had previously worked at a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Makassar, South Sulawesi, after obtaining a bachelor's degree in English literature from Hasanuddin University. In 2015, he returned to Sano Nggoang and decided to make his first foray into the tourism sector when he witnessed that it had propelled growth in Labuan Bajo.

“At that time it was really nice to be a guide. I could earn up to Rp500,000 per day, excluding tips from guests”

Boe recalls

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Boe was forced to adapt to deal with the lack of tourists. He tried to sell virtual tour packages but to no avail.

However, he remains optimistic and believes that the slowdown in the tourism sector in the midst of the pandemic gives time for him and fellow tour guides to develop themselves, one of which is by participating in the ecotourism development training held by Indecon in Jakarta.

For five days, Boe learned how to develop tourism products, manage tourist attractions, and marketing chain. Although he has gained some experience in the tourism sector, Boe still feels that this training has helped enhance his self-confidence and provide more comprehensive knowledge about cross-regional tourism assistance.

Now Boe is also getting ready to expand his services. In addition to being a guide, Boe plans to be a mentor to develop tourist villages in West Manggarai. According to Boe, knowledge from Indecon's training and his NGO experience are two valuable assets to realise his plans.