Lombok is getting ready to step forward as an international tourism destination, with the opening of its new international airport due within the next year. Construction started on the airport in early 2008 and should be complete by mid 2010.
Supporting infrastructure is expected to be in place by the end of 2010 and the airport will commence operating in 2011. Lombok International Airport or BIL (Bandara International Lombok), as it is commonly called, is located on 538 hectares in Tanak Awu, central Lombok. Bordered by the villages of Penujak, ketare and Batujai, the airport is only a 20 minute drive to the south coast resort area of Kuta and around one hour from Lombok's capital city, Mataram. there are plans to build a toll road linking the airport and the city, with a travelling time of around 20 minutes. Lombok International Airport will replace the island's existing selaparang Airport near Mataram, which currently handles only short-bodied aircraft and is mainly limited to domestic flights, apart from international Silk air flights between Lombok and Singapore. Selaparang Airport is currently capable of handling up to 1.1 million travellers, while the new international airport is expected to handle around 2 million people in its first year and up to 2.4 million people by 2015. The new airport has a main runway of 2,750 meters in length and 45 meters wide. Apron parking areas measure 62,074 square meters with a terminal measuring20,000 square meters and parking lots covering 17,500 square meters. the runway and landing facilities can accommodate Boeing 765 series, Airbus 320, MD 11 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The three storey terminal building has a sleek, modern design and will total 20 000sqm when complete. the main floor, measuring 10 000sqm, will be open to both passengers and general public. The second floor, at 7000sqm, will be accessible to travelling passengers only. The decks on the third floor comprise two separate areas linked by a sky bridge.
One area will serve as a viewing station or lookout, while the other side will feature a sky cafe. An international airport in Lombok will allow visitors to fly directly to his paradise island without having to travel via java or Bali, saving on travelling time and expense. Development of the island in the past has been hampered by the unreliability, and the negative perception by overseas travellers, of domestic flights. Direct international flights are also expected to open up the islands to the east. particularly Sumbawa, Flores and Komodo islands. The news that construction of the airport is nearing completion has attracted interest from international developers, quick to see the potential of the island and keen to move in early when Lombok is opened up for international travel. Since construction commenced, local and international investors have been snapping up land around the area, particularly in the nearby tourism zone of Kuta on Lombok's south coast. The Lombok government is currently accepting tenders for the development of 1,200 hectares of pristine beachfront land on the south coast and it is expected that the area will be transformed in the coming years. Investor anticipation has also flowed on to other areas of Lombok, particularly Senggigi and the Gili Islands, where land values have increased dramatically.
An international airport is seen as a giant step forward for Lombok, which is often cast as a side trip from Bali. With the ability to handle direct international flights, the island is set to become a desirable destination in its own right.