Sports tourism given high hopes for boosting economic recovery in Indonesia
by Dames Alexander Sinaga
Indonesian medium-scale tourism entrepreneur Lalu Nurasman is all fired up by the brand new Mandalika International Circuit situated in his birthplace in the country's province of West Nusa Tenggara, known for its local abbreviation as NTB.
For the past few days, his homestay accommodation with 17 bedrooms has been fully occupied by domestic tourists who came to see the circuit which is selected as the final race track for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship (WSBK) held over the weekend from Nov. 19 to 21.
It was the first big event for the Mandalika Circuit, which is Indonesia's second international racing venue set to boost tourism in the archipelago.
Nurasman said that in the past few days tourists never stopped coming to his homestay in Kuta Village, located about 10 minutes away by car from the circuit.
"Many friends told me all the bedrooms in Kuta are already fully occupied. All rental cars are booked, too. This is exciting," he told Xinhua on Saturday.
Nurasman was a farmer as well as a taxi driver in Mandalika before building his homestay accommodation six years ago to make it the main source of living with his family.
"Accommodation business is more fruitful and more promising," the father of three said.
He went on to say that locals in Mandalika and villages nearby have begun to make a living not only from traditional farming or fishing but also from tourism or hospitality businesses.
Mandalika is a special economic zone in the southern part of Lombok Island, the neighboring island of the popular holiday island of Bali.
Usually, international tourists visit the region to explore the local culture and surf in the waters.
The name of Mandalika derives from a princess from the Tunjung Beru Kingdom who was known for her beauty and attracted many princes from other kingdoms to marry her.
The princess, however, ended up throwing herself into the sea to avoid any prince from getting hurting while competing to marry her.
Locals commemorate Princess Mandalika during the Bau Nyale Festival that is held every year on the 20th day of the 10th month according to the local calendar as the place Mandalika is getting more popular.
The Mandalika Circuit is also ready to host MotoGP in March next year in accordance with President Joko Widodo's big dream to develop more tourism hubs outside Bali.
The president, widely known as Jokowi, inaugurated the Mandalika Circuit in Central Lombok district on Nov. 12.
The launching ceremony spurred a sense of optimism among locals, hoping to revive tourism from the pall of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Jokowi has promised that more major events will continue to be held every year at the race venue to boost the economy in the province.
During the weekend, thousands of tourists, both local and international, flocked to the Mandalika Circuit to watch the race matches from tribunes.
The circuit has a 4.31-kilometer track, featuring 17 corners that showcase various Mandalika tourist spots.
Chinese visitor Chen Feng came to the venue with some friends all the way from the country's national capital Jakarta to watch the WSBK event on Saturday.
Feng, who comes from China's province of Jiangsu, has been living and working as an accountant at a bank in Jakarta for four years.
"We together had a plan to see Lombok for tourism purposes. And, we notice that the WSBK is currently ongoing. So, we purposely came here to see the match," he told Xinhua before entering the circuit.
In an interview with Xinhua at the circuit on Saturday, NTB Governor Zulkieflimansyah said that the current situation of tourism in the province following the reopening of tourism in the province is "extraordinary."
"We have this flock of tourists during the pandemic situation. Just imagine if it happened during a normal situation," he said.
Likewise, local homestay owners like Nurasman expressed hopes that the tourism condition in Mandalika would be back to normal permanently after the WSBK event.
"We deeply hope our village won't get back to being quiet again after the race match finished," he said.
(Source_title：Feature: Sports tourism given high hopes for boosting economic recovery in Indonesia)