Heritage tourism is one of various sustainable tourism activities in heritage sites where tourists can learn and get involved in local culture and tradition. Heritage tourism can be the uniqueness of nature, culture or the combination of both in the unity of time and place. The difference that distinguishes heritage tourism from ordinary nature-based or culture-based tourism is that heritage tourism objects are qualified as heritage sites according to the definition published in Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). Heritage tourism objects have extraordinary uniqueness and can be defined as masterpieces made by human or nature.
Tourism is regarded as one locomotive to stimulate local economy and to create job opportunities for the community. Tourism in frontier regions such as Flores Island should be based on community and be developed in a sustainable way. Sustainable tourism consists of the triple bottom lines i.e. empowering the community, strengthening local economy as well as conserving nature and cultural heritages.
Labuhan Bajo is a small town that always has been a just backward fisherman village but that recently become popular among tourists. Komodo icon has made tourists flow into this town. They are looking beyond Bali and going to the frontier islands in Nusa Tenggara. During the last decade, the number of tourists has increased sharply. Labuhan Bajo has become busy with many tourists accommodation and facilities developed in limited steep land. Labuhan Bajo is showing rapid growth and change and is opening more and more to visitors.
Rapid change from a fisherman village to a tourism town creates many opportunities for people who can adapt to new local economic atmosphere. Some of the local entrepreneurs can change from resource based economy to service based economy, i.e. tourism, while others stay behind as they lack skills, capital and management to cope with the new business environment. So there is a need to improve human ability and capacity in order to develop heritage tourism in the frontier region.
Keywords: Heritage tourism, small islands, small town in the frontier, local economy and conservation of nature.
Head of the Tourism Centre at Gadjah Mada University