Foreign tourists pull their suitcases as they walk past damaged buildings following a strong earthquake in Pemenang, North Lombok, Indonesia


Ahmad Subaidi/ via Reuters

Days after a powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's resort island of Lombok, killing more than 130 people and sending thousands of tourists fleeing, its beach strip stands eerily empty, with shops and hotels shuttered.

Any hotels still open are refusing guests out of safety concerns, while nearby restaurants and dive shops lie vacant in what is usually one of their busiest months of the year, reeling from the devastation of tourism caused by the quake.

"It went from high season just a few days ago to absolutely nothing now," lamented Howard Singleton, who owns a beachside restaurant in the west coast town of Senggigi, ravished by striking sunset views of a volcano on neighboring Bali.

Authorities are still tallying up earthquake losses, but the value of assets destroyed and other damage could easily top 1 trillion rupiah ($69 million), said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Foreign and domestic tourists fled after Sunday's earthquake of magnitude 6.9 destroyed homes and displaced tens of thousands of people, adding to the havoc from an earlier quake on July 29, although of smaller magnitude, at 6.4.

"We've had light earthquakes in the past, but never anything like this," said Marcel De Rijk, owner of Lombok boutique hotel chain Puri Mas Resort, whose beachside hotel and villas will stay closed until September for repairs.

"We've lost a lot of bookings and future guests are in wait-and-see mode," he added. "I don't think people will choose Lombok anymore this summer."

Cancellations of tour bookings for Lombok, Indonesia's second-biggest tourism destination after Bali, have surged, the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies told Reuters.

"I imagine things will be pretty desperate and I don't expect things to improve before next year," said Singleton.

Both experts and tourist businesses say Lombok will recover, but the next few months will be tough.

"I don't foresee any long-term tourism impact for Indonesia," said Matt Gebbie, Asia-Pacific director at tourism consultancy Horwarth HTL. "But the short-term impacts are heartbreaking for local communities. Tourism dollars will go a long way in helping the communities rebuild.”

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