From English Teacher to Tourism Icon
Imagine working as an English teacher at a secondary school in a quiet town on the Indonesian Island of Lombok when one day you are summoned to meet and talk to two foreign travelers. Since you are one of only a handful of people on the whole island who speaks English, it makes sense to bring the travelers all the way across the island to meet you.
Back then, nearly four decades ago, the journey would have taken at least a few hours, if the weather was good! At the time foreigners were known as belanda (Indonesian term for the colonial Dutch or a western person) and these two particular travelers were from Canada. This historic encounter was the beginning of the story of one of Lombok’s most iconic figures in tourism.
That meeting when the Canadians met Pak Radiah, one of the island’s most respected teachers, happened in 1979. Back then, the tourism industry on Lombok was non-existent, however, all the neighbors knew Mr. Radiah was the right person to speak to these first foreign travelers. However, communication was not easy, since most of his knowledge of English came from listening to Radio Australia and reading books. Since then, Pak has improved his English. Thanks to his knowledge and reputation, Mr. Radiah earned a citation in Lonely Planet’s first Lombok edition in 1983.
It was quite a challenge for Mr. Radiah to find out what the travelers wanted to see in Lombok. After their first conversation, he realized the visiting tourists were intrigued by Lombok’s nature, as well as the daily lives and cultural values of Lombok’s eastern Indonesian people.
The second phase in Mr. Radiah’s tourism career began when the local government asked him if he could expand his home to accommodate travelers. At first he could offer only four rooms, and then he quickly expanded to six. Mr. Radiah and his wife have welcomed travelers into their home ever since. At first, the majority of travelers were young and adventurous backpackers, but today all kinds of people come to the island thanks to its improved infrastructure and the local government’s successful efforts to promote Lombok as a tourist destination.
One thing has remained the same and that is Mr. Radiah himself. He may be the tourism authority on Lombok, but that only increases his motivation to actively seek interesting activities and sights to show to his guests. His home includes a fishpond and a beautiful garden with over fifty kinds of plants and trees. Each specimen is labeled with names in English and Indonesian, a sure sign that the teacher in him is still very much alive.
For more information about tours to Lombok and booking accommodations with a welcome by Mr. Pak Radiah, please contact [email protected]