Located in West Manggara district, East Nusa Tenggara province, which is considered as one of the least developed regions in eastern Indonesia, Labuan Bajo is blessed with stunning beaches of white and even pink sand, crystal clear waters, mountains, intact forested isles and valleys, with traditional villages at the center.
The tourist site has another appeal: it serves as a gateway to the Komodo National Park, home to the world’s only surviving giant lizard, the Komodo Dragon. The park is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who visited Labuan Bajo twice this year in January and October, has designated it as one of the 10 top priority tourist destinations, dubbed as ‘Beyond Bali’, along with Borobudur in Central Java, Lake Toba in North Sumatra, and Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara.
Furthermore, the government is determined to develop Labuan Bajo as a super premium tourist attraction. Keen to showcase Labuan Baju to world leaders, President Jokowi is planning to host ASEAN and G20 Summits at the site in 2023.
“More importantly, we also want to prepare Labuan Bajo [to host] the G20 [Summit] in 2023 and the ASEAN Summit in 2023,” he said, noting that in 2023, Indonesia is scheduled to hold the presidency of the G20 and the chairmanship of ASEAN.
The Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) has been tasked with developing infrastructure and facilities in Tana Mori and Tana Naga isles in Labuan Bajo, in cooperation with PT PP (Persero) Tbk.
"We plan to make Tana Mori a high-end resort in Labuan Bajo akin to Bali's Nusa Dua," development director of state-owned ITDC, Edwin Darmasetiawan, stated recently.
The development projects will comprise MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions) facilities and two five-star hotels to accommodate leaders of G20 member countries, including the United States, China, and Russia.
"They (delegates) do not want to be in one hotel, so there must be at least two or three hotels for other delegates too,” Darmasetiawan pointed out.
Funding for the projects has been proposed through state equity participation (PMN), in addition to private investment.
“I am very optimistic that we would be able to complete it at least in 2022. The event will be held in 2023, but our obligation is to prepare the venue with all supporting aspects, both property and infrastructure, by the end of 2022,” he informed.
Infrastructure development in the Labuan Bajo area is currently underway. This will help Labuan Bajo to become a world-class destination and make it easier for tourists to explore the site.
“All premium roads are being built. Including from the airport to Puncak Waringin, then the road to Kampung Ujung and Pede Beach,” Shana Fatina, managing director of the Labuan Bajo Flores Authority Agency (BOPLBF), said.
Local communities are also being empowered to participate in developing Labuan Bajo tourism, among other things by improving their skills in producing local and traditional handicrafts.
Fatina estimated that 10 thousand guests would be attending the international events.
In fact, the government has begun drafting an integrated tourism master plan (ITMP) for Labuan Bajo.
“The supply and demand must be matched, and it is necessary to have clear and measurable targets, break down the work, and a clear timeline to develop the ITMP,” Angela Tanoesoedibjo, the Tourism and Creative Economy deputy minister, said in a statement on October 7, 2020.
The master plan is being drafted carefully and with due consideration accorded to the region’s uniqueness and existing market potential, both domestic and international. The development is also to follow health protocols, in accordance with the post-pandemic tourism trend.
The government plans to develop the tourist site as a pilot project for safety development that would support the needs of the community and tourists in terms of safety and security.
“We believe that East Nusa Tenggara can become a world-class dream destination that is safe and convenient to visit,” Tanoesoedibjo remarked, adding that tourism would boost foreign exchange, the local economy, and open up employment opportunities.
Fatina confirmed that Labuan Bajo will be developed as a safe city through the implementation of the Electronic Securing Integrated System (ESIS) initiated by the West Manggarai Police.
“Hence, we are currently developing Labuan Bajo into a safe city. Certainly, this system (ESIS) strengthens the integration of emergency handling and safety security protocols of Labuan Bajo," Fatina explained.
The ESIS will also offer a sense of safety and comfort to tourists visiting Labuan Bajo.
The program aligns with the directives of President Widodo, who is targeting to develop Labuan Bajo into a super premium tourist area, Fatina pointed out.
The ESIS program is targeted to be officially launched in early 2021, according to West Manggarai Police chief, Adjunct Senior Commissioner (AKBP) Bambang Hari Wibowo,
"This program aims to make Labuan Bajo into a super premium tourist area. Currently, it has reached 80-percent completion," he revealed.
Some two thousand CCTV cameras will be installed under the program to monitor all locations in Labuan Bajo.
In addition, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo) has stated that super WiFi technology has been chosen for providing internet services in Labuan Bajo in order to build community-based tourism in the area.
This is in accordance with the President's directive to develop community-based tourism, Minister of Communication and Informatics, Johnny G Plate, said while on a working visit to Labuan Bajo.
Plate was optimistic that Internet services would boost the local digital economy, as well as help improve the quality of human resources.
At least 23 Base Transceiver Stations need to be installed for the 4G network, Plate informed. While there are 20 active Base Transceiver Stations, 3 more stations are being installed, he added.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to linger, development work is progressing in Labuan Bajo in the hope that when the world is safe from the pandemic, Indonesia’s ‘hidden paradise’ will be one of the first tourist destinations ready to welcome domestic and international tourists.