The operation of Lombok's new international airport has paved the way for the island's increasing popularity as a tourist destination, a survey finds.
Tourism Solutions International (TSI), a Singapore-based hospitality investment firm, disclosed in its latest research report that the increase in international arrivals to Lombok - a tourist destination close to the already world-famous destination of Bali - is partly thanks to the island's new international airport.
According to TSI, passenger arrivals in Lombok stood at 896,348 in 2012, an increase from 579,705 passengers in 2009. "International arrivals accounted for less than 2 per cent of arrivals," it said.
Passenger arrivals in Lombok increased to nearly one million in 2013, with international arrivals exceeding 41,000, or doubling to approximately 4 per cent of total arrivals, compared to 17,032 recorded in 2012.
"This is a significant market dynamic that is impacting the tourism market," TSI said.
The firm said it expects that international arrivals will rise to approximately 7 per cent of total arrivals in 2014 "if current international air service remains constant".
"Providing international flight frequency does not change in 2014, we project that the arrival figure will be approximately 70,000 in 2014," it said.
The new 551-hectare airport in Lombok commenced operation in 2011. The terminal capacity is 3 million arrivals per year, with a planned runway extension to accommodate larger planes.
"The airport's location is expected to cause a shift from northwest Lombok […] being the only dominant tourism centre, to enable south Lombok and its beaches a chance to be looked at as a second major destination hub," it said.
Despite the rise in the number of international arrivals, international tourist numbers remain relatively low, which, according to the report, is attributable to the limited number of direct flights.
"There were more than 220 domestic flights per week and 11 international flights per week in 2012," it said.
Until almost the end of 2012, Silk Air was the only international carrier flying to Lombok, which explains why Singapore was the top feeder market in 2012, with 19 per cent, for direct air arrivals to Lombok, according to the report.
In 2012, Europeans, namely from Germany, the UK and France, accounted for a third of international arrivals, while Malaysia contributed about 10 per cent.
New flights from Kuala Lumpur, which started in November 2012, as well as flights from Perth, Australia, that began in September 2013 and from Singapore in November 2013 are causing further shifts in key markets in 2014, according to the report.
International visitors tend to stay longer, with an average trip length of almost four days, compared to three days for domestic travelers in 2012.