Through various ecotourism trainings and mentoring, Indecon supported youth groups who are working to develop tourism in Central Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Enggra Terfii, 26 years old, still wants to work in the tourism sector after he was forced to go back to his village in Karang Sidemen, North Batukliang district, Central Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara, when the hotel where he used to work had to lay-off some of their employees because of the pandemic.
Along with some friends, he reinvigorated the Kelompok Sadar Wisata (Tourism Awareness Group) Sendang Biru to develop the tourism potentials of Karang Sidemen in mid-2021. Located in the area of Mount Rinjani, Karang Sidemen village offers diverse landscapes and sceneries, from hills, rice fields to plantations that can be developed as attractive agro-tourism destinations.
However, such potentials have not been tapped yet, which puts the tourism development in the village behind other areas in Lombok, such as Kuta Mandalika, Senggigi and Mataram. The development in these areas has attracted a lot of young people from Karang Sidemen, including Enggra, to move away from their own village. He had worked in several hotels in Senggigi and Gili Trawangan after he graduated from Ambarrukmo Tourism Institute (Stipram) in Yogyakarta.
The migration of the young people had further slowed down the development of tourism in Karang Sidemen. Activities held by the tourism awareness group were put on hold until the young people returned to their village when they lost their job because of the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of 2020, I and my friends are committed to building our village by developing Danau Biru as a tourist destination”said Enggra
While they were trying to develop their own tourism village, Enggra and his friends were informed about a number of trainings held by the Indonesian Ecotourism Foundation (Indecon). Seven members of the Sendang Biru group participated in a series of trainings to develop tourism products, manage tourist attractions, and market tourism products, and to understand the production chain.
The trainings that were held in Praya in August and November 2021 provided knowledge for tourism actors in the villages in order to improve their tourism products and to adapt to the changing tourism market during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
These trainings were a part of the Employment and Livelihood project, jointly organized by four United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia, including the ILO. The joint project was funded by UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).
“We highly support young people who migrated back to their villages and now trying wholeheartedly to develop their villages. We are hopeful that these trainings can provide enough knowledge to support their long journey in developing their village’s potentials,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s National Project Officer in Jakarta.
Equipped with the lessons learned from the trainings, Enggra and his colleagues in Sendang Biru group revamped their tourism programs, added “selfie” hotspots and improved the public toilet facility. “This resulted in an increasing number of visitors at Blue Lake, an increase of more than 100% compared to before we participate in the training,” he said.
“We want to continue to develop the tourism in Karang Sidemen and avoid mass tourism that often causes negative impacts in other tourism destinations”Enggra said
Furthermore, Sendang Biru group and Enggra are planning to improve Danau Biru and Karang Sidemen into becoming high-quality tourist destinations, targeting upper-middle class tourists. A number of travel packages are planned, such as offering a type of meet-and-greet with the local farming community and trying traditional games that are not often seen in large cities.
The only trace left of Pejanggik kingdom’s past glory is the Beleg Pejanggik Hall, located opposite of Syamsul’s house. His familiarity with the history of Pejanggik kingdom was the reason why he chose to return to his village after he graduated from Stipram Yogyakarta and try to preserve the village’s cultural heritage in 2020.
“Since I was small, I often was told the stories of the kingdom; the rituals from the days of the kings which we still continue until now”said the 24-year-old man
According to Syamsul, the ancient rituals can become a tourist attraction. The village community does not oppose the idea to develop their village as a tourist destination, despite the fact that most of them have not had a clear understanding of sustainable tourism.
“The group, Pokdarwis, hasn’t got any activities. Tourists that visited the Beleg Pejanggik Hall were guided by tour guides from outside of the village, so there’s no benefit for us,” he said.
While trying to manage and promote the cultural site in Pejanggik, Syamsul heard about the series of trainings held by Indecon. He and six other villagers registered and participated in the trainings to develop tourism products and manage tourist attractions in August 2021. They also participated in the trainings that covered tourism product marketing and production chain in November 2021.
After the trainings, Syamsul and his colleagues applied their new knowledge by creating an educational tourism package, which targets schools or universities. They promote this package on social media. “Post trainings, I encouraged friends to participate. We have re-activated the village’s Pokdarwis and we have a new managing committee,” he said.