Indonesian tsunami hits small hoteliers hard

Lilianti Bachtiar may abandon the hotel business completely after the tsunami that smashed into Indonesia’s Java coast recently, badly damaging her 26-room hotel.

The killer waves slammed into the back of the Grand Mutiara hotel overlooking the beach at Pangandaran, obliterating its kitchen.

The first floor, where Bachtiar and her family lived, is wrecked, with smashed debris filling the shelled rooms.

Bachtiar is now staying in the main town in the Ciamis district and says she plans to go back to inspect the hotel in the coming days.

“If anyone is interested, we will sell the property in the shape it is now. My child is traumatised and refuses to return,” she says.

When the tsunami struck, she and her daughter, carrying her 20-month old baby, ran to higher ground. Her American husband was not at home.

Bachtiar says she made from three to nine million rupiah (about $300 to $900) in profit each month, depending on occupancy.

Business was already hard even before the tsunami, with four employees and bills to pay, she says.

“I have no money left now.
I don’t know if I can recover even in one year,” she says.

One of her employees, Denny Setiawan, is slowing mopping up the mess at the hotel.

“I’m not going to quit. I’m not afraid of another tsunami. If I have to die here then it’s my destiny,” he says.

The 3m tsunami killed over 500 people, while over 700 people were injured and many remain missing. At least six foreigners were believed among the dead.

The waves tossed cars, motorcycles and boats like toys into hotels and restaurants, sparking memories of the 2004 catastrophe that left 220 000 people dead across Asia, most of them in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

Pangandaran is an idyllic stretch of resorts along the southern coast of West Java province, especially popular among Indonesian tourists, but also luring many foreigners.

The number of foreigners, however, dropped off about two years ago when the maximum number of months granted to tourists dropped from three to one, meaning they had less time to take in Indonesia’s many sights.

Kusumo Sujanarko (56) says he will have to start over from scratch after his resort, consisting of six bungalows and a restaurant, was left in ruins after the tsunami. His Volvo sedan is now no more than scrap metal.

“Nothing is left ... but I’m thankful because I and my family are safe,” he says, holding a family photograph showing him as a child.

His children are helping him clean up the debris.

He estimates he will need at least three years to recover and wants the government to give him financial help.

“I want to start all over again but I don’t know where to begin.

“I hope the government is thinking about providing soft loans in the form of materials so that we can recover,” he says.—Sapa-AFP

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